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Doctors speak with a girl in a free medical camp in Dharavi during the lockdown in Mumbai. (AP)
Doctors speak with a girl in a free medical camp in Dharavi during the lockdown in Mumbai. (AP)

Covid-19: No help for Mumbai’s healthcare workers who test positive

  • Maharashtra Medical Council has made representations to authorities seeking a dedicated hospital to treat these workers
  • There are around 11,000 doctors, nurses and ward boys, government and private, assisting the state to fight the disease

MUMBAI: When doctors and nurses in Mumbai, which has so far reported over 15,000 cases, test positive for coronavirus, they are often left to fend for themselves, struggling to get admitted to hospitals and end up paying for their treatment.

“When doctors and nurses test positive in Mumbai, they find it difficult to find a spare bed at a hospital," Shivkumar Utture, president, Maharashtra Medical Council, told Mint.

“There is no dedicated hospital for healthcare workers. I often have to make calls to hospitals and use my network and influence to help get sick doctors admitted. When a doctor or nurse tests positive, they have to use their own resources and influence to get treated," Utture added.

The medical council has made representations to authorities seeking a dedicated hospital for treatment of doctors, nurses and class-four employees (cleaners, ward boys, pharmacy workers), who get infected while on duty. The council has also asked that the city corporation or private hospitals where these healthcare workers are employed should pay for the treatment or provide a medical insurance scheme. So far, there has been no response from the administration to these requests.

Some nurses, working at the private PD Hinduja Hospital's (in Mahim) covid-19 treatment ward, had tested positive last week.

“Four nurses tested positive," a member of the hospital staff told Mint. Instead of being admitted to the hospital’s own isolation and treatment facility, they were sent to the city corporation’s quarantine unit in Worli.

“In the public quarantine, the nurses had to put up with very poor conditions. There were no doctors there and they had to stand in a long queue to get medicines. Both men and women are all put in the same place and many men kept staring at these young nurses. They were so uncomfortable that they were afraid to sleep," the member said.

Other nurses protested and complained to the management at the hospital, following which the infected ones were moved to a better quarantine facility in Ruparel College.

The staff member that Mint spoke to said it is inevitable that hospital workers, doctors or the pantry staff, are likely to get the disease. “The protective equipment is only available to those who work with high-risk patients in the covid-19 ward. The rest of the staff has to wear cotton gowns and surgical masks. But we don’t know whether the patients we come into contact with are positive or not till their tests are done; most patients are anyway asymptomatic. At our hospital, about 35 staff members have already tested positive."

When contacted, a spokesperson for the hospital told Mint: “As per MCGM guidelines, we can only admit symptomatic patients, while all asymptomatic patients are sent to public quarantine facilities. Most beds at the hospital allocated for severe covid-19 patients are full and a few are reserved for MCGM, as per rules. Currently, asymptomatic patients, including our own medical and non-medical staff, cannot be admitted at the hospital."

Currently, there are around 11,000 doctors, nurses and ward boys, both government and private, who are assisting the state in fighting the disease. On 6 May, the state had asked private medical practitioners to report to work immediately and mandatorily serve covid-19 patients for at least 15 days to give the current workforce a rest. So far, over 1,500 doctors have signed up. Mumbai has also asked 5,000 doctors from other districts in Maharashtra to serve the city's metropolitan region, the city's worst-hit spot.

Medical workers are at higher risk of succumbing to the disease, Utture said. “When you come into direct contact with the patient and body fluids, the viral load that is transferred to the doctor or nurse is much higher, way more than in community transmission. And that influences how severe the disease is. So doctors and nurses shouldn’t wait for a few days to find a bed in a hospital to get treatment. They need to be admitted immediately."

A spokesperson for Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) told Mint that there is no centralised database tracking the infected healthcare workers in the city. However, the person said Nair Hospital Dental College in Mumbai Central is a dedicated facility for them.

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