As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the national capital, many nurses, one of the first lines of defence in the war against COVID-19, in private hospitals in Delhi have sounded alarm bells fearing for their safety and of their loved ones.
While at some private hospitals in Delhi several nurses tendered their resignation the day these were made COVID facilities -- fully or partially -- many heathcare workers later left their jobs alleging that they were being given masks and PPE kits which were not of good quality.
Sources at some of the government and private hospitals said that some nurses and paramedic staff had just stopped coming to work as they were very scared of the situation.
Dr D S Rana, Chairman, Board of Management (BOM), Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, "Around 40 nurses working with Sir Ganga Ram City Hospital (ancillary facility of the main hospital) had resigned the day it was made a dedicated COVID facility."
"These are all young nurses, most of them unmarried, and worried about their future. Their parents also are apprehensive, and want them to be safe. So, they left. We sent a few nurses from our main hospital, and somehow we are managing patient care," he said.
Senior nurses are still committed and not afraid as their profession teaches them to be, and "we are in the process of recruiting 20 more nurses".
Situation is not very different at Primus Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi where "several nurses had left duty due to the risks involved in attending to COVID-19 patients".
Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr Subrato Gorai, said, they had certain grievances, and that issue has been resolved, "and those nurses are gradually returning to work"
He said, hospital authorities had filed a complaint with the police for "abandoning duty" but that is being again looked into.
A senior police official said, a written complaint was received through SDM Chanakyapuri which was filed by the Primus Hospital.
"They have complained about the nursing staff leaving the hospital and not joining COVID-19 emergency duty during this pandemic. We are inquiring into the matter and further necessary action would be taken according to the outcome of the inquiry," the senior police officer said.
Hundreds of healthcare workers in Delhi have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic outbreak here in March. At least one nurse in the city has died due the disease.
Many nurses, on the condition of anonymity, said that they were afraid to go to work initially, but later the larger purpose of serving humanity become a motivational factor for them.
A nurse at a private hospital in south Delhi said that she carried a Bible in her bag all the time and an e-Bible on her phone, "and reading it in break time gave me comfort from the stressful job."
Also at Saroj Hospital, a private COVID-19 facility, many nurses "stopped coming" to work after it became a coronavirus hospital, officials said.
Dr P K Bharadwaj, chief executive director of the hospital said, nurses who have coronavirus duty also need to be quarantined after few days.
"Earlier, if the hospital needed 250 nurses, it currently requires 500 nurses. After the hospital became coronavirus dedicated hospital, approximately 40-50 per cent nurses stopped coming, citing reasons, such as lack of transportation and also refusal by their families to be on COVID duty," he said.
Nurses demanded twice the salary after a nurse contracted coronavirus, the doctor said, adding they also demanded other health benefits like insurance.
"One keeps giving advertisements for vacancies but there is no response. The bigger the hospital, the lesser the problem, but smaller hospitals face the issues of nurses," he said.
Some nursing staff have contracted COVID during treatment of patients, officials said.
"We have written to the authorities about the issue. There is no point in increasing the bed strength if there is no manpower. How will you treat patients," he asked.
Rince Joseph, president of the United Nurses Association, said, they had written to the Centre and the Delhi government regarding their concerns but there has been "no response".
"We want that the hospital infrastructure should be improved and there should be proper quarantine facilities for nurses. The families of nurses are stopping them from reporting to work because they are scared for their safety. The nurses end up becoming carriers of the virus and also endangering their families," he lamented.
He said nurses wear PPE kits during their shifts and work in non-AC wards and alleged that they "cannot even access washrooms" which poses a serious threat to their health.