Mumbai: Medical students who are screening travellers at the Mumbai international airport are feeling vulnerable, as they have not been provided with basic safety gear to protect them from infection. Students have complained to Dr Ramesh Bharmal, the director of major hospitals about their plight. He is looking into the issue.
Students have alleged that many of them have not been provided gowns and caps, a clear violation of World Health Organisation rules. Nearly 100 students from government and civic hospitals have been deployed at the screening department of the international airport. Some students alleged discrimination on the basis of medical colleges they came from. “Around 18 students from BYL Nair Hospital (TN Medical College) have only got gowns, while students from the Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College (KEM) and Grant Medical College (JJ) hospitals have been given protective gear from the outset,” said a student.
Those students who have the appropriate screening gear allege they have only been provided three-layered face masks, forcing them to carry respirators or N-95 masks from their hospitals. “Surgical masks are recommended for the public but for medicos working at the frontline, N-95 masks are compulsory, which have not been provided to us. This virus is new and there is a need for more research. How can we risk our lives for lack N-95 masks and droplet resistant gowns?” asked a student who is part of the screening team.
Dr Bharmal, who is also the dean of Nair Hospital has spoken to the Airport Health Authority (AHO) about the crisis. But the hospital has decided to supply the gear to its students from their hospital stocks for their safety. “All these students are young and they are working at the front line, so I cannot wait for the authorities to respond. So I have asked my students to get the protective gear from the hospital,” he said.
However, the airport authority has completely refuted the atudents' claims of discrimination. “As these students are involved only in thermal screening of passengers, we did not give them the gowns. As per the directive of the central health department, gloves and surgical masks are enough for them,”said Dr A Pashi, in-charge, AHO.