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Representational Image
Xinhua/Zhu Wanjun

Ward boys, technicians, cleaners and other staff at VN Desai Municipal General Hospital in Santacruz East, staged a protest and refused to work for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, demanding proper personal protective equipment (PPE) kits to protect themselves from contracting coronavirus.

Stating that they had not been provided proper N95 masks, gloves, and sanitisers, several technicians, ward boys, and cleaners at the civic hospital halted their work temporarily as a mark of protest and warned the hospital administration that if the situation did not improve, they would stop work completely.

According to a staffer at the hospital, who did not wish to be named, an elderly male patient was brought to the hospital recently. Since he initially did not display any symptoms of coronavirus, he was kept in the general ward.

However, he was shifted to KEM Hospital after he developed serious respiratory problems. The patient tested positive for coronavirus, and later succumbed to the disease. This caused grave concern among the staff at V N Desai Hospital, as many of them had unknowingly come in contact with a coronavirus patient.

Since yesterday, seven staff members - including two doctors, three nurses and an X-ray staffer - were isolated in a room. These were the people who were in contact with the patient who was later shifted to KEM Hospital. Their family members were waiting to meet them, but were not allowed to do so until these staffers were tested for coronavirus and their reports were available," said a source from the hospital.

“Today, we came to know that a special ward had been prepared for coronavirus patients and we were being assigned duties at that ward. My colleagues and I went to the Medical Superintendent and asked them to give us proper N 95 masks and other equipment needed.

The hospital administration took the issue lightly, saying that not many patients were being admitted and that protective equipment would be available soon,” alleged one of the staffers who protested on Saturday. Besides proper PPE kits, the workers at the hospital have also demanded that an accommodation facility be made available for them at the hospital or nearby.

“Most of us stay far from the hospital, and while we will be working in the ward for coronavirus patients, we do not want to go home as we don't want to risk our families getting infected through us. Just as nurses and doctors are given accommodation and other facilities, we too should get them,” said the staffer, on condition of anonymity.

"We are ready to work 24X7, but our only demand is that like doctors and nurses, even we should be given accommodation and food as we don't want to go home as long as we work with coronavirus patients, as we have children and other family members who could easily contract the infection through contact with us,” said another staffer.

When contacted, Usha Sharma, Medical Superintendent of V N Desai Hospital, did not wish to comment on the protest by the hospital workers.

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