THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Working on the frontline to aid the state in its fight against the pandemic, they are as much at risk of contracting Covid-19 as any other health worker.Yet, over 600 medical students who chose the state’s government hospitals for the mandatory one-year house surgency are neither paid anything nor covered under the government’s free insurance coverage.
These young interns, who studied medicine in foreign countries or private medical colleges in India, are currently posted in general hospitals across the state and are engaged in Covid-19 treatment. Yet, they do not even get the free food or accommodation that is offered to volunteers at first-line treatment centres.
“Many of us hail from middle-class families and have availed loans for our studies. I myself took `8.5 lakh as loan and have not repaid anything. What will happen to my family if I die of Covid?” asked a 26-year-old who did not wish to be identified.
His co-worker said the revised treatment protocol has increased their families’ risk of infection. “Since self-isolation after Covid-19 duty has been done away with for us, our families are at risk. It is sad the government considers our lives less worthy than our counterparts in government medical college hospitals (GMCHs),” said the co-worker.
Interns at GMCHs are students who studied there. They get a monthly stipend of `25,000 and have now been included in the government’s `50 lakh insurance coverage for regular staff.However, those at general hospitals are working on one-year unpaid internships with neither a risk allowance nor any insurance coverage.
In terms of Covid duty, house surgeons in GMCHs and general hospitals do the same work - in the general outpatient (OP) department, the Covid-19 triage to screen symptomatic patients, isolation wards and Covid wards. They are also sent for swab collection in vulnerable areas. House surgeons at general hospitals complain that they are at high risk of infection as they do not wear PPE in the general OP.
Recently, four interns assigned for swab collection of 300 persons at Kinfra had to face a alarming situation wherein donors gathered around the collection centre without maintaining social distancing. “The risk is high when we are posted on the field. People may not maintain social distancing, thereby risking their lives and ours,” said a student. The house surgeons want the government to provide them with risk allowance and insurance coverage.