Lucknow: Medical staff, including nurses and paramedical employees, at Balrampur Hospital in Lucknow, are staging a protest against the hospital administration after they were denied the mandatory 14-day quarantine facility by the hospital. The nurses have alleged that the authorities forced them to go back to their homes despite the fact that they were in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. This has triggered fear among them about the high risk being faced by their family members.
"A separate team has been formed for the quarantine facility, yet nurses and other staff on duty are still working without safety measures. The hospital did not have personal protective equipment (PPE) till March 7. Now they have these, but not enough, as several nurses and other medical staff is being deputed at the corona isolation ward," a nurse said.
Meenu Rani, another nurse in Balrampur Hospital, who was on duty from April 1 to 3 at an isolation ward told Newsclick, "I was on duty from April 1 to 3 at isolation ward but was not shifted to 14 days quarantine as per the protocol for health workers."
Accusing the hospital authorities of not providing safety equipment and putting the lives of nurses at risk, two nurses Newsclick spoke to said “they were living in fear and facing mental trauma due to this.”
"Almost 20 to 22 nurses and other medical staff were posted at ward number two where first 12 members of Tablighi Jamaat, all suspected cases of COVID-19, were kept in isolation from April 1 to 3. On April 4, 12 more cases of COVID-19 landed up and were kept in the same ward despite fact the later one tested positive. When we were deployed there, only masks and gloves were given because there was no PPE kit,” said the nurses, adding that all health workers who in direct contact of coronavirus patients should also remain in 14-day quarantine to prevent passing of the infection to family members or other. “But we are not offered any quarantine facility," they added.
Sexual Harassment Allegation
Amid all this, one nurse also alleged sexual harassment by the senior most authority of Balrampur Hospital, its director, Dr Rajiv Lochan.
Speaking with Newsclick, the nurse, currently posted at the corona isolation ward of hospital, alleged that she was inappropriately touched by the director.
"A few days ago, Dr Lochan visited the isolation ward for screening of COVID patients. He was fully covered with the quarantine kit (hazmat suit) when he returned from the isolation ward, and first asked me to open his gown from behind. When I did that, he again asked me to pull off his apron, which I did silently. I could not utter a single word as he was my director. He did not stop there and asked for a bucket to throw gloves, etc. When I got the bucket, he threw a fit saying the bucket was small. He then put the "infected” gloves in my apron and said” keep these gloves and take them home."
The nurse also alleged that the director was fond of making videos while screening patients and “forced” the medical staff to send these to the news channels. “Isn't this risky?" she asked.
Incidentally, Lochan was under cloud in 2018, too, in another case of alleged sexual harassment.
This allegation comes at a time when several frontline health workers, who are risking their lives to serve COVID-19 patients, have alleged that also being economically deprived, as their salaries are not coming in time. There have also been reports of some doctors and nurses complaining that funds from the Prime Minister's relief fund, allocated for their financial being, were not being made available to them.
Meanwhile, some nurses have also claimed that despite not being mandatory, one day's salary was deducted from the staff to donate to the PM-CARES Fund without informing them.
NewsClick made several calls to Lochan to for his version but all these went unanswered.
This is not the first incident of alleged misbehaviour with nurses in Uttar Pradesh hospitals. On April 4, NewsClick reported a similar case at Banda Medical College, where nurses held a protest against its principal for misbehaving, shortage of PPE and salary deduction. Twenty six medical personnel were terminated for protesting.