NEW DELHI: From restriction on WhatsApp groups to providing limited protective gear — certain decisions by centrally-run government hospitals are leading to resentment amongst resident doctors. While the Resident Doctor Associations (RDA) have repeatedly raised the issue of the lack of PPE kits and N95 masks, the hospital authorities have either used Twitter or put out notices refuting the claims. Recently, the RDA of AIIMS wrote to PM Narendra Modi stating that the doctors have faced backlash for expressing their problems.
“The letter was written seeking whistleblower protection for the doctors,” said an AIIMS doctor. The letter stated that “in the face of corona pandemic, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that these soldiers are heard, respected, rather than humiliated.” A few days ago, a notice was sent out by the Safdarjung Hospital on disclosing the name, mobile number and email of all admins of WhatsApp groups of the hospital which are to be submitted to the police. “This is required to prevent the spreading of any fake news, rumour or any other adverse comments/ statements on social media and in the institution by any hospital/college staff,” it said.
“Most administrations are vindictive and personally attacking healthcare workers who are speaking out. We need to understand the deep-rooted neglect of India’s public healthcare system by successive governments and the pandemic has exposed this vulnerability, which can’t be fixed overnight. So governments, bureaucrats and hospital administrations are trying to silence dissenting voices,” said Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, who was formerly associated with AIIMS and a former RDA president.
Another doctor at a state-run hospital said none is taking their concerns seriously. “Most senior doctors are not visiting hospitals. It is the junior doctors working with Covid-19 patients. The quality of PPE kits is poor. If the administration doesn’t care for our health, why won’t the doctors raise their voice,” the doctor asked. After some doctors at Hindu Rao Hospital had offered their resignation and the commissioner of the local civic body had said that their contracts won’t be renewed. “No doctor wants to leave the situation... But the admin leaves no choice,” said a doctor from the hospital.