Only 700 doctors among 20,000 can be put to work in Covid Care Centres and hospitals: BMC

Mumbai: Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, several Covid Care Centres and hospitals are facing an acute shortage of doctors. While the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) had selected 4,200 registered medical practitioners (RMPs) who had expressed their willingness to perform COVID-19 duties, it has now emerged that the BMC ultimately found only 700 of them were qualified to work, and the remaining 3,500 were already working in government or civic-run Covid hospitals.

Meanwhile, senior doctors said that amid an increasing number of cases,they were struggling to arrange doctors who can serve at Covid Care Centres. To address the issue of a dire shortage of doctors amid rising COVID-19 hospitalisations, the DMER had on May 4 issued a circular seeking compulsory COVID-19 duty for RMPs. It asked over 25,000 registered allopaths in Mumbai to fill forms providing details of their specialisation, preference of area of work,current hospitals or clinics where they work and their addresses.

“You shall thereby convey your willingness and place of choice where you would like to render your services… Non-attendance of duty will be considered as breach of the Medical Council of India code of ethicsthat we administered at the time of obtaining degree and action will be initiated according to provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897,”read the notification. In response, 20,000 RMPs had actively registered, and DMER selected 4,200 doctors from them who showed their willingness in performing the duty. Senior doctors said they got the list of RMPs, but it was difficult for them to assign dutiesto doctors as only 700 of 20,000 were qualified for COVID-19 duties.

“It was learnt that most of the doctors who registered were out of India, and some of them were above 55 year of age. So on what basis could they have been assigned duty in Mumbai? Also, 3,500 who showed willingness to perform COVID-19 duties were already working in private or government run hospitals,” a senior Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) doctor said.“Despite the DMER order we got only 700 RMPs, which is not adequate considering that Mumbai is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. All the hospitals in the city are facing a shortage of doctors, which needs to be addressed on an immediate basis,” she added.

Though no data is available about the total number of physicians running their own private clinics, Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) estimatesthat around 5,000 such doctors are available in Mumbai who are below the age group of 55 years.“We can’t ask private doctors who are already providing their services in a hospital. The notice was mainly aimed at doctors who have clinics. They can work both in civic hospitals and their clinics simultaneously,”said Dr Shivkumar Utture, president, MMC.

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