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Lack of PPE, Masks: Protest Chorus Rises, Resident Docs in AMU’s JNMC Threaten to Boycott Duties

Doctors are worried after a junior resident doctor, who was not posted in the isolation ward or fever clinic, was tested COVID-19 positive on Wednesday.


Lucknow: Faced with shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks, the Resident Doctors’ Association of JNMC, which is treating suspected coronavirus patients, has decided to boycott their duties if the government fails to provide PPE and other safety equipment. This comes a day after a junior resident doctor on Wednesday tested COVID-19 positive. 

Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC) is facing a shortage of masks and PPE. Incidentally, even Uttar Pradesh’s Principal Health Secretary, Amit Mohan Prasad, recently admitted that shortage of protective gear for doctors and other healthcare workers was a matter of concern. The state has the sixth highest number of corona cases in India, with as many as 94 fresh cases of COVID-19 positive.

When asked about the ground reality of JNMC, Mohd. Hamza Malik, president of the Resident Doctors’ Association of JNMC, told NewsClick over phone: "There are two departments in JNMC where doctors were given PPE, the fever clinic and isolation ward. These are two departments where suspected novel coronavirus patients are being treated. Beside this, doctor and other medical staff, performing their duties at other departments, including trauma centre, paediatric department, labour room were not given protective equipment.  

Fearing that JNMC could be a source of infection, the RDA president pointed out that a female resident, who was found COVID-19 positive on Wednesday, was not posted in the isolation ward or fever clinic. 

"She was neither posted at fever clinic, nor at isolation ward where suspected coronavirus patients are being treated. Yet, she tested positive. She was posted at trauma centre where no suspected patient was admitted. She does not even have any travelling history,” he said.

The RDA also has written a letter to AMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Tariq Mansoor, seeking to convert JNMC into a dedicated COVID-19 hospital so that every resident could get PPE kits.

"The source of infection of doctor who has tested positive could not found as of now. She was deputed at trauma centre and had extensive contacts with healthcare professionals throughout JNMC. The administration should ensure that all patients should get a check-up done and no further non-COVID treatment should be entertained until doctors received PPEs and sufficient testing kit to fight against the coronavirus,” he said. 

A resident doctor, who requested anonymity, claimed that the administration had told them that PPE would be provided only when a doctor or medical staff is attending to a positive patient.

While a resident doctor on Wednesday reported positive, another person related to a deceased COVID-19 infected person, tested positive on Thursday evening, That’s when we decided to halt work and discuss what should be done about the lack of protective gears,” Malik added.

When asked, university's official spokesperson, Prof. Shafey Kidwai, told NewsClick: "Cases of corona infection from all over Western Uttar Pradesh are coming to JNMC for testing. Besides emergency services, nowhere in the city is there any arrangement for a serious patient to get good treatment. In such a situation, it will not be possible for the university administration to take any decision to declare the medical college as COVID-19 hospital without consulting the district administration."


JNMC is not the first hospital in Uttar Pradesh where resident doctors have raised their voice against the shortage of PPE and N95 masks. In fact, the shortage of safety equipment has been crippling COVID-19 containment efforts.  

Paramedics, anxious about their safety from the contagious novel coronavirus, staged a protest at Banda Government Medical College in Uttar Pradesh on April 3. Instead of addressing the issue, over 26 medical personnel were terminated.

Similarly, a senior nurse at Ram Manohar Lohia Institute in Lucknow, had also complained that they had not been provided N-95 masks, PPE and sanitisers. Besides, nurses said water supply was inadequate and soap or handwash were unavailable at the facility.

Agra, an epicentre of coronavirus in Uttar Pradesh, which recorded the highest number of COVID patients, also witnessed a similar protest due to shortage of PPE and masks. 

Lady Lyall Hospital (district women’s hospital) and SN Medical College (SNMC), the only two hospitals in Agra treating COVID patients were in the spotlight when the health staff of both the centres alleged they were being forced to work under unsafe conditions, and were not given PPEs.

Several hospitals and medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh recently voiced their concerns about the poor quality of PPEs given to them. 

The Uttar Pradesh Director General of Medical Education has written a letter to medical colleges warning them against the use of sub-standard PPE.

"The PPEs that have been supplied are of inferior quality and the length of the overalls were not in line with set parameters," the letter reads.

Meanwhile, 94 more people tested positive till Friday afternoon, taking the total number of cases in Uttar Pradesh to 1,604. While 206 people have recovered from the disease in state, 24 have died from the infection here, Union Health Ministry confirmed on April 24.

Addressing the media in Lucknow on Friday evening after UP registered a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, Health Secretary, Amit Mohan Prasad, said that a total 1,604 cases were reported in the state, out of which 1,374 were active cases. The trend in the rise of COVID cases is decreasing, he said adding that 57 districts were affected due to the virus. 

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