20,000 health professionals to return to work as Maharashtra regulates PPE price3 min read . Updated: 28 May 2020, 09:07 PM IST
In the past two months, nearly 20,000 medical practitioners had gone off the field mainly due to the lack of PPE and unavailability of assisting staff
MUMBAI : Thousands of doctors and nurses who had shut shop for the past two months in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, have begun returning to work with the Maharashtra government facilitating procurement of personal protection equipment (PPE) for free to all private clinics.
In the past two months, nearly 20,000 medical practitioners had gone off the field mainly due to the lack of PPE and unavailability of assisting staff.
In the MMR region alone, 12,000 doctors had shut shop due to the shortage of protective gear, which also led their staff to abstain from work, further aggravating the shortage of health professionals.
Mumbai, alone, has 25,000 modern medicine registered practitioners. Of these, over 7,000 are already employed with the government, while another 6,000 doctors, who are either over the age of 55 years or suffering from comorbid conditions, will not be opening their clinics.
"Now PPEs are available and at a reasonable cost. Earlier we were paying about ₹3,000 for them. Now we pay ₹600. Availability of N95 masks however, is still an issue," said Dr Shivkumar Utture, who opened his clinic after he could manage PPE kits for himself and his staff.
PPE, including goggles, face shields, masks, gloves, coveralls or gowns, head covers and shoe covers, are all made of plastic and reduce the risk of the person using them from contracting the covid-19 infection.
When new coronavirus struck Mumbai, a PPE was available for close to ₹3,000, against the present price of nearly ₹840. Doctors found it difficult to buy it for themselves and their staff on a daily basis.
Non-availability of protective kits meant putting the life of health professionals at risk, which also kept them from opening their private clinics as they feared contracting covid-19. The municipal corporation, however, has been calling for multiple tenders to bring down PPE kit prices and increase their supply in the city.
"We have started providing PPE kits for free to all the private clinics in the city, and have already issued a circular to that effect. The only condition is that the free kits should be given to clinics and not hospitals. So, all private clinics can approach their respective ward office and collect one week of PPE kit supplies in advance at the rate of two PPE kits per day, completey free of cost," said P.Velrasu, additional municipal commissioner at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
In fact, on Wednesday the municipal body received a representation from the IMA (Indian Medical Association) on PPE kits availability and has also asked private hospitals to tie up with its low-cost vendors and procure PPE kits at the same price as BMC, added Velrasu.
At present, BMC has 15 vendors from whom it is purchasing N92 masks for ₹42 per unit and the full PPE kit for close to ₹840 apiece. Private hospitals, he said, have the option to either procure from BMC's vendors or buy from any other vendor who is offering it at lower rates.
“Presently, BMC has 2.5 lakh PPE kits at its central facility in Andheri and in different BMC-run hospitals. Further, we have placed an advance order for another four-five days’ worth of supplies, which is about 2 lakh more PPE kits," said Velrasu.
"We try to keep 7-10 days of stock at any given time. Currently, I have nearly 12 days of my PPE kit requirement already covered. We have put a list of vendors on our website so that anybody can get in touch with them and procure kits at the same price as it is offered to BMC," he added.
As of now, the consumption of PPEs for civic-run hospitals is about 30,000-40,000 kits per day, but as covid-19 cases rise and private clinics start opening up, the demand would go up accordingly. To meet the new requirement, BMC has floated another tender for PPEs wherein about 80 vendors have participated, which is expected to increase procurement and bring the rates down substantially. “We expect to finalize the vendor list, based on lowest bids and other technical qualifications, in the next 2-3 days, which will further bring down our PPE kit costs. In the coming days, we expect the demand to go up to at least 50,000 kits per day. This increase will be covered by the new vendors who will qualify the tender, and we will now start ordering our supplies based on the new requirement," added Velrasu.