Karnataka: Hospitals battle staff shortage as Covid spikes

Despite offers of risk allowance, incentives, health staff reluctant to take up Covid duties

Published: 09th July 2020 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th July 2020 08:48 AM   |  A+A-

Staff at the Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital screen a woman before allowing her to proceed to the OPD section, in Bengaluru on Wednesday | VINOD KUMAR T

Express News Service

BENGALURU: With the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the city, many private and government hospitals, which are hamstrung by a shortage of staff, have begun recruiting doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and other staff. But shockingly, the prospective recruits seem averse to taking up Covid duties despite hospitals offering risk allowances and other incentives. According to estimates by the Karnataka Medical Council, hospitals across the state are facing a 40-50 per cent shortage of doctors, nurses and technical staff.

Sources in the state Covid technical committee said there is an acute shortage of health staff, specially for Covid care centres and to triage persons going in for home isolation. At the government-run K C General Hospital, about seven staffers including nurses, doctors and a data operator, had tested positive for Covid-19, leading to a panic, and most of the Group-D staff and many nurses are on leave. Though the hospital is recruiting staff on a six-month contract, there are hardly any takers.

“Nobody wants to work in this scenario. With even health workers testing positive, the staffers are really scared. Between July 4 and 10, we are conducting walk-in interviews and so far, we have only got two specialists, four staff nurses and five Group-D staff who have come forward. We need more doctors, nurses and Group-D staff. The existing staff go into quarantine after Covid duty and we need extra staff to replace them,” said a senior doctor who did not want to be named. Dr Jagadish Hiremath, CEO of Ace Suhas Hospital in Jigani, said, “We had 60 staffers working with us in early March on Covid duty.

Now, we have just 28 of them. With such lean staff, how can we check on Covid patients? We are recruiting and are even okay with reasonably trained staff who we can further train, but they want to join for non-Covid services. We are even offering them 100 per cent risk allowance apart from salary, but they are not agreeing for Covid duties.”

‘We have asked govt to allow PG students to work’

 DR Naresh Shetty, president of M S Ramaiah Memorial Hospital said that they have started recruitment, but those coming for interviews are reluctant to join Covid duty. “There is not enough confidence among the staff as they are at a higher risk. Quite a few from our own hospital have left. Even though we have beds, we have less staff to take care of patients. We are managing as of now, but we need more staff.” Dr R Ravindra, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association revealed that private hospital are facing an acute shortage of staff and they have asked the government to allow them to rope in PG students who could be trained for Covid services.

“We have asked the State Government to allow PG students to start working, they can be trained. The government has promised to look into the matter. Meanwhile, Kerala and Maharashtra have offered to send us doctors and nurses, but they are asking exorbitant rates which now we cannot afford. Even though recruitments are on in many hospitals, and even incentives are being offered, people are not coming forward to work,” he said.


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