RML Hospital staff continue to struggle for treatment, while 35 rooms vacant for VIPs

In a repeat of the situation from 2020, the staff of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (RML) in Delhi who test positive for COVID-19 are not being provided with treatment facilities in the hospital

Photo Courtesy: social media
Photo Courtesy: social media
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Ashlin Mathew

In a repeat of the situation from 2020, the staff of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (RML) in the National Capital who test positive for COVID-19 are not provided with treatment facilities in the hospital. Several of them have struggled to get admission. The hospital comes under the management of the Central government’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

At least 150 nurses have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks and more than 200 doctors have tested positive too. The hospital does not have an accurate number for the number of support staff who have tested positive. However, they were not admitted to the hospital. Some nurses got admitted at Safdarjung Hospital in south Delhi and a few at All India Institute of Medical Sciences -Jhajjar in Haryana.

“Most of those who test positive stay at home, but 10% of those who test positive for COVID-19 cannot isolate at home and a few of them are seriously ill. The hospital doesn’t allow admissions for them, unlike other hospitals where there are special wards for staff members and their families if they test positive. Here we have begged, yet they don’t relent,” said a healthcare worker.

At RML Hospital, a healthcare worker had to plead for two hours to admit the person’s grandmother, who was gasping for breath. “She was eventually given a bed in a COVID-19 ward without oxygen. She died in a few hours,” said another healthcare worker, who did not want to be identified.

All these harrowing incidents have occurred despite 35 vacant VIP nursing home rooms, but no VIP has been treated in the hospital this past year, said health care workers. “We have not seen any politician who has gotten admitted at RML Hospital. They all go to private hospitals. Here, we are not given beds and we cannot even save our family members. How do they expect us to work under these trying circumstances?” noted a senior health care worker. These are rooms that are separate from the wards and have been lying vacant.

“The triaging area where patients are checked for COVID-19 symptoms is where segregation of patients happens depending on their importance and access to power. People get beds based on who has referred them. A staff member of a politician will get a bed even if there are other patients who require urgent Oxygen facilities,” explained a health worker.

The hospital works on “VIP culture”, said a health worker, and the staff is expected to “maintain silence”. “How do we do that? Our family members are dying. There are empty hospital beds, but they won’t be given to the staff either. The hospital only attends calls from politicians and bureaucrats,” added another health worker.


Shortage of Staff

In several of the COVID-19 wards, where there are more than 20 patients, it is being handled by one or two nurses. The hospital last hired in 2019. “We are extremely short on nursing staff. In 2019, 540 were selected, but only 270 joined. After that, no one has been hired. Several senior posts are vacant. We have only one deputy nursing superintendent who is retiring in four days. We are supposed to have 68 Assistant Nursing Superintendents, but there are only 30. Additionally, they expect one or two nurses to handle entire wards. It is extremely difficult to do so. Earlier, there would be relatives of patients, who would help. Now, that is not there,” explained a senior health care worker.

Lack of transport facilities

These are not the only issues plaguing the hospital staff. All those who are on COVID-19 duty can avail the hotel facilities arranged by the hospital in Central Delhi, but there is no transportation from the hotel to the hospital and back. “Last year, there was transportation and then they stopped it. But, several health workers began to avail the hotel facilities this year, but the hospital has not begun transport facilities to and from the hotel. “It is extremely difficult for those on night shifts and early morning shifts to get transport to the hospital. We are late often, but the administration does not want to hear us,” said a health worker in one of the COVID-19 wards.

The staff has been attempting to speak to the RML medical superintendent Dr AK Rana, but he hasn’t met either the doctors or nurses to hear their complaints. They have been brushed aside at least five times in the past week with the excuse that he is busy.

Last year too, in May 2020, the RML staff wrote several letters to the previous medical superintendent, Dr. Minakshi Bharadwaj requesting a separate arrangement for treatment of the staff.

This is at a time when Delhi has recorded 20,201 positive cases of the 57,690 tests done on April 27 and 380 deaths were recorded. India has reported 3.52 lakh cases, 2,812 deaths in the highest single-day spike.

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