When hospitals turn Covid clusters

As the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic takes a firm shape at an astonishing pace, doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff are the first to face the brunt, as usual.

Published: 08th January 2022 07:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th January 2022 07:24 AM   |  A+A-

Covid beds kept ready at Nandambakkam Trade Centre in Chennai. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

Image used for representational purpose. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

As the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic takes a firm shape at an astonishing pace, doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff are the first to face the brunt, as usual. There are reports about fresh clusters being formed in hospitals across India, just as in the previous two waves of the pandemic. That hospitals are already facing a staff shortage is forcing many healthcare workers not to get tested to avoid the unpleasant situation arising out of an acute scarcity of manpower.

What a student from the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital in Chennai, where a dozen doctors tested positive earlier this week, told this newspaper is baffling. Many of them apparently have symptoms, but only those with severe fever are getting tested. If they get tested and are reported as Covid positive, they would have to be necessarily quarantined, and the hospitals can’t be shut down for want of staff.

This is indeed a serious issue. Even if the third wave is less fatal compared to its previous incarnations, the spread of infection in hospitals may lead to complications among patients suffering from other ailments and those recuperating from surgeries. Doctors on duty in casualty wards and outpatient departments should wear PPE kits and follow all Covid-appropriate behaviour. They may need to treat every patient as a Covid carrier. As per the Indian Medical Association (IMA), more than 1,500 doctors sacrificed their life in the line of duty during the pandemic, with over 800 deaths during the second wave. Several nurses and healthcare staff too perished in two years. We can’t afford to let this recur in the New Year.

Doctors and other healthcare workers continue to be burdened with long hours of work. Post-graduate medicos who went on strike in Kerala in December complained of undertaking strenuous work continuously for 48 to 72 hours due to inadequate number of resident doctors. It is imperative that every state should appoint more healthcare staff and provide higher remuneration. Counselling for NEET, which has been delayed by over a year, needs to be undertaken on a war footing. Let’s not underestimate Omicron.


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