COVID-19: Delhi government issues order to gag health staff from speaking to media, airing grievances online

Delhi govt ordered state hospitals to take note of social media posts regarding functioning of these hospitals to either rebut them or take corrective action to avoid recurrences of such incidents

COVID-19: Delhi government issues order to gag health staff from speaking to media, airing grievances online
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Ashlin Mathew

The government of Delhi ordered, on Tuesday, state hospitals to take note of the social media messages regarding the functioning of these hospitals to either rebut them or take corrective action to avoid recurrences of such incidents.

In the order sent by Delhi Health Secretary Padmaja Singla, she states that the Medical Superintendent, Medical Directors and Directors of all Hospitals under the Delhi government should monitor social media and news media and react to messages about them so that “the correct position is presented before the people”.

COVID-19: Delhi government issues order to gag health staff from speaking to media, airing grievances online

Immediately after the government order, GTB Hospital director Sunil Kumar sent a gag order to all the health staff on COVID-19 duty. Kumar stated in the order that the staff on COVID-19 duty must report their problems to their concerned duty-roster controlling officer. The resident doctors on COVID-19 duty must bring it to the attention of the head of the medicine department, the nurses with the nursing superintendent and the Group C and D staffers to the Medical Officer in Charge (MOIC).

Kumar refrained the staff from talking to media, posting on Whatsapp, Twitter or Facebook without first talking to their controlling officer. He invoked the Central Civil Services Conduct Rules, 1965, to state that using media to highlight their grievances was against the rules. The director then went on to add that the health staff must remember that they are doing ‘a national duty and so some difficulties are inevitable’.

The GTB director underscored that highlighting these issues online would be embarrassing for the government. He then assured the staff that if their problems were ‘genuine’, it wouldn’t be ignored if brought to ‘notice timely and through valid acceptable means’.

At Lok Nayak Hospital, while no order was issued, the medical director called several nurses to explain about their posts about their unhygienic stay and lack of food on social media.

“The only way the superiors would listen was that media took note, otherwise they have been ignoring several of our complaints. It was the last resort. The LN Hospital medical director did not allocate accommodation for nurses until the news of their protest in front of the admin building went viral. They had been writing letters to the director for 14 days,” said a staff on COVID-19 duty.

The Delhi government order comes after several health staff on COVID-19 duty at both Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital and Lok Nayak Hospital had posted videos about the deplorable conditions they were made to work in. In the latest of the videos which emerged, GTB Hospital nurses on COVID-19 can be seen speaking about their removal from the Hotels they were staying in in the middle of the night because only doctors were to get hotel accommodation.

In another video, LN Hospital nurses complained about the lack of hygiene at Gujarat Samaj Guest House, where they were made to stay unlike the doctors who got five-star hotel accommodation. Another video, which was circulated, showed an LN Hospital nurse who had fainted because the Hospital authorities had not provided the staff with either breakfast or lunch.

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