While the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the city, cases of doctors getting infected by the virus has become a serious concern for their colleagues in the medical fraternity, and the civic authorities.
On Saturday, a Tardeobased paediatrician tested positive for coronavirus. The doctor, who was in self-isolation since March 18, has no travel history, and is suspected to have contracted the disease from relatives with travel history during a marriage function.
While the BMC’s health investigators are trying to trace his close contacts, the doctor has claimed he has not been to his nursing home in Worli since March 18 and has self-isolated himself during the same time.
"We are watching the case very closely to trace the doctor's close contacts. However, we are thankful to the doctor who acted very responsibly as soon as he suspected he had contracted the virus when he came in contact with relatives during a marriage function on March 18," said Prashant Gaikwad, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of D ward (Charni road, Grant Road, Malabar Hill and Tardeo).
The doctor has now been admitted to Sir H N Reliance Foundation hospital and research centre in Girgaon. The civic body on Saturday visited the housing society where the doctor resides and sanitised the entire building and its amenities, including an elevator in the building. Meanwhile, two general practitioners running small private clinics in Kalina and Andheri tested positive on Friday.
The GP from Kalina contracted the virus from a 37- year-old waiter, a resident of the Jambhulpada slums in Kalina, who had recently returned from Italy. The doctor came in contact with the 37- year-old twice, when he approached the doctor for treatment. On both occasions, the doctor sent him to Kasturba Hospital.
However, the waiter tested positive only the second time. The doctor is now being treated at S L Raheja hospital in Mahim, with his wife and two children, who are in isolation in the same hospital. In the Andheri GP's case, his wife and daughter too have tested positive. The civic body traced nearly 60 of the 53-year-old physician’s patients, and all of them have been put in isolation by the BMC and are being screened. The doctor does not have any travel history.
These case have caused concern among other doctors in the city. While the government has asked all GPs to keep their clinics open, in the absence of any protective gear, they are left largely exposed to the highly contagious virus.
"We cannot send back any patient if they insist on an examination. Wi t - hout any protective gear, our and our family's lives are at risk. I have stopped going to the clinic. However, patients are consulting me over the phone. I advise those with symptoms of cough, cold and fever to visit Ka - s turba Hosp and get themselves tested,” said a GP from Ghatkopar (W).
Another GP whose clinic is in Santacruz said," There are 90 per cent chances that we might get exposed to the virus since so many people visit us daily. Patients or their close contacts who initially have mild symptoms can be carriers of the virus and infect not just the doctors, but other patients too. Keeping this in mind, I decided to keep the clinic shut for some time. However, for emergency cases, I consult over the phone and visit their residence if possible in the nearby area."
BMC has asked doctors to not to examine patients without wearing a proper mask like N-95 and only test patients who come with prior appointments after seeking information about the illness. "General practitioners must refrain from directly checking patients with cold, cough and fever. They must advise such patients to get tested for coronavirus. They can also help them with the BMC helpline for home testing as a precautionary measure. Doctors need to be alert, rather than just panic and shut the clinics," Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, adding, “If they come across any suspected coronavirus case, or if they believe they themselves have been exposed to the virus, they must report it to the BMC.”
Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association's (IMA) Maharashtra chapter on Saturday said the state government's claim, that private doctors had stopped their practice due to the coronavirus outbreak, was not based on facts.