Coronavirus in Mumbai: From patients hiding info to lack of safety, this is the life of a doctor battling COVID-19

Coronavirus in Mumbai: From patients hiding info to lack of safety, this is the life of a doctor battling COVID-19

Patients withhold info, risking caregivers' lives, causing hospital shutdowns in the middle of a pandemic; med suppliers turn scalpers and to top it all, govt has no SOPs in place for tackling pandemic

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Friday, April 10, 2020, 07:17 AM IST
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Mumbai: On the one hand, there is a clamour for quarantine facilities with the increasing number of corona cases in the city each day and on the other, several private hospitals are shutting down services because their staff has been infected. For this, doctors are blaming patients who withhold crucial information and medical suppliers, for raising the prices of protective kits five-fold.

Six of Mumbai's major private hospitals- Jaslok, Breach Candy, Saifee, Hinduja, Wockhardt and Bhatia, have come under the scanner of the health department after reporting CoVID-19 patients. One of the hospitals has been declared a containment zone, which means its staff has been quarantined for 14 days. This has resulted in severe manpower shortage at a crucial time.

Doctors are now up in arms, blaming the government for not providing adequate training to nurses and for lack of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to handle asymptomatic patients in the midst of a pandemic. Allowing the treatment of CoVID-19 patients in crowded private hospitals always carries the risk of spreading infection. Doctors are insisting on the need to divide healthcare facilities into CoVID and non-CoVID hospitals, for the safety of other uninfected patients.

Shockingly, it has become unaffordable for medicos to wear fresh Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) every time they see a new patient because each disposable kit, now costs Rs 5,000 due to a sharp surge in demand, whereas according to the government, it should not cost more than Rs 1,000 each.

Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president, Indian Medical Association (IMA), Maharashtra, said doctors are so scared of contracting the infection, they are now using raincoats as PPE. “The PPE is a one-use item, we cannot use the same for another patient. Patients fear we may have examined an infected patient wearing the same gloves,” he said.

Most protective kits are coming to the hospitals through donations and these do not meet international safety standards. “Local manufacturers are producing unsafe PPE and selling at a higher price. Sometimes, these kits don’t even include N-95 masks or feet covers. Also, the quality is too poor to check virus transmission,” added Dr Bhondwe.

At a meeting with State Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday, the IMA demanded that doctors be insured for Rs one crore for of loss of life during CoVID duty.

Patients are so afraid of being sent to the isolation ward that they conceal facts from doctors, not realising they endanger the lives of their caregivers by doing so. On March 8, a 64-year-old who had returned from Dubai, got himself admitted to Hinduja Hospital upon his doctor's advice after he developed symptoms of coronavirus-like fever, cold and cough. However, claim hospital sources, he did not reveal his travel history. Later, doctors got suspicious and his swab test on March 12 confirmed their worst fears. This necessitated the isolation and testing of all those on the same floor as the patient.

Doctors are demanding punitive action against those patients hiding their information, on the grounds of negligence. “It is impossible for doctors to distinguish between CoVID-19 and seasonal flu patients without a test. This was the first instance of a patient failing to reveal his risk factors and thereby endangering the lives of other medicos. There is a need to sensitise people,” said Dr Mukesh Gupta, president of the Association of Medical Consultants.

All hospitals have government accreditation to treat patients suffering from a variety of infections. This makes it impractical to seal off a hospital for 14 days, said doctors.“

A rescue plan, which involves isolation of infected staff and the sanitisation of premises should be formulated so that these institutions can reopen within 24–48 hours, instead of a prolonged shutdown of 14 days or more,” said Dr Ramen Goel, president, Indian Association of Gastro-intestinal Endo-Surgeons (IAGES).

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