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MUMBAI: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has served notices to 20 general practitioners (GPs) for violation of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, after the GPs closed their clinics for fear of contracting coronavirus.

Already eight doctors and over a dozen nurses have been diagnosed with CoVID-19, which has created fear among doctors, causing them to shut shop, as they do not have the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to screen suspected patients.

But by closing down their clinics, they are in violation of the Act. Health officials say, in the current scenario, doctors need to screen patients with symptoms like cold and cough and refer suspected patients to hospitals for diagnosis.

“Many clinics are not following this rule, and this is why we have sent notices to around 20 private practitioners and more are under inspection,” said a health official. According to the BMC, there are around 300 private clinics in each ward.

The respective ward officers are given the responsibility of keeping an eye on private clinics. Harshad Kale, deputy municipal commissioner, confirmed having received direction from the civic chief, Praveen Pardeshi, to send notices to private clinics that are shutting down.

“The commissioner has given us the right to call medical practitioners to duty by servicing notices if they close down. It is a pandemic situation and we need more manpower,” he said. In the city, already hundreds of medicos have been home-quarantined after they were exposed in the course of treating coronavirus patients.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has blamed the BMC for being negligent. Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president, IMA, informed that when the city recorded its first case in the second week of March, the BMC had instructed them to screen all possible suspected patients with symptoms and refer them to nodal coronavirus centres.

But the private practitioners weren’t given protective gear. The health authority said, surgical masks are enough to stop transmission but as is being observed now, mere masks are inadequate. Even to screen patients, we need N-95 masks, if not PPE,” he said.

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