The healthcare workers in all hospitals under the Central and Delhi governments will protest their respective hospital managements on Friday, May 21. This comes after the hospitals, based on an order from the Central government, decided to remove the mandatory quarantine period for healthcare workers on Covid-19 duty.
The healthcare workers of Lady Hardinge Medical College, Safdarjung Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital and Lok Nayak Hospital will be wearing a black band on Friday, May 22, to work to stress the need for being quarantined away from home after completing the 14-day duty in a COVID-19 ward.
“All the healthcare workers in Delhi and central government hospitals will participate in the silent protest. The welfare of our families and their lives are at stake,” said Shivaji Burman, president of the Federation of Resident Doctors Association India (FORDA).
The union ministry of health and family welfare, on May 15, issued a circular, which has done away with the mandatory quarantine period and testing of health workers on COVID-19 duty. Among the states, only Karnataka and Delhi have passed the order.
This order had alarmed both nurses and doctors alike as many of them have elderly parents and young children at home. The healthcare workers have called the recent government order as unfair, illogical and unacceptable.
“The government is saying that they have no funds. We did not ask for five-star hotel accommodation. We have only asked clean, sanitary surroundings where we will get good food. After being on COVID-19 duty, it s risky to go home immediately as the incubation period for the virus is 2-14 days. We could test positive even though we would be asymptomatic. This would put our families in danger. In this pandemic, we will stage a silent protest by wearing a black band to work,” said Dr Ekta Yadav, president of RML Hospital Resident Doctors’ Association.
The RML Nurses Association has written to the medical superintendent about the next batch of nurses who will finish their COVID-19 duty on May 25. At RML, the nurses work in rotation in the COVID-19 wards. As per the current order, immediately after the COVID-19 duty, the nurses have been asked to report to their regular wards without taking the COVID-19 test.
“The Hospital administration had stayed the earlier order to vacate the hotel rooms until May 25. The RML order is silent about those who are finishing their COVID-19 duty after May 25,” said Shashi Rani Sharma, general secretary of RML Hospital Nurses Union. The Union has requested the hospital administration to relax the order and provide adequate quarantine and testing to all nurses working in COVID-19 area.
An irate healthcare worker said that the government wanted to blame them for contracting the coronavirus infection. “The union Ministry’s guidelines imply that if the personal protection equipment is worn and if one metre distance is maintained, the healthcare worker will not get COVID-19. That is completely false. What the ministry says can happen in an ideal condition, but in India, the situation is far removed from ideal. All COVID-19 rooms should be negative pressure rooms to ensure that the air from these rooms do not flow outside. Does that happen anywhere in the country? Our systems have not been digitised. We file our reports, case histories on paper. A piece of paper can carry the disease and we will never know,” explained a nurse working at RML.
The doctors and nurses’ union of Lok Nayak Hospital met late on Wednesday night to discuss the future course of action. “We met the Medical Superintendent Dr Suresh on Thursday morning. He said that the order would be suspended for the next seven days, after which a decision would be taken,” said Jeemol Shaji, the general secretary of the Delhi Nurses Union.
A senior doctor in the team managing COVID-19 in the hospital said that they have relaxed the order. “We have done what we can. We have relaxed the order for the next seven days. We have informed the government about the issues. We hope to hear from them,” said the doctor who did not want to be identified.
The doctors of LN Hospital are likely to participate in the black band protest. “We spoke to the Medical Superintendent. The order has been stayed for seven days. What happens after that. It’s not just about us. Several of the first-year post-graduate students are on COVID-19 duty in all the 11 districts in Delhi. Several of them have been posted in quarantine centres run by the government. Several of them who were in their quarantine period after COVID-19 duty have ben asked to leave the hotels immediately,” said Keshave Singh, vice-president of LNH Resident Doctors Association.
Today, the chief district medical officer of the North-West district ordered the healthcare workers to vacate their rooms at Hotel Picadilly, Hotel Cozy Inn and Terapanth Bhawan. They have been ordered to go back to their colleges.
“We tried to call the CDMO Dr Meenakshi Hembram, but her phone has been switched off. Now, all of these students will come back to the hostel. We do not know if they are carriers as they have not taken the COVID-19 test yet. They are likely to infect others in the hostel, mess area and staff,” asserted Singh.
Delhi on Thursday reported 571 positive cases, the highest number of Covid-19 in Delhi, while they tested only 4103. The percentage of the infected population is rising. On Wednesday, May 20, there were 534 positive cases when 4,428 COVID-19 tests were conducted. On Tuesday, May 19, 500 tested positive out of 6,127 cases. The Delhi government has again removed the number of positive cases from their daily health bulletin.