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Too soon? Disbanding of Kerala's Covid brigade likely to affect patient care

The state government has cited improvement in the pandemic situation and lack of funds from Centre as reasons for the decision, but health experts said it’s not yet time.

Published: 25th October 2021 01:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th October 2021 09:24 AM   |  A+A-

healthcare workers, PPE kit, Covid cases

For representational purpose. (File Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The disbanding of the Covid brigade by the end of October is likely to affect patient care in government hospitals and Covid care centres.

While the number of Covid care centres has come down in tune with the reduced spread and severity of infection over the past six weeks, health experts said it is not yet time to disband the entire brigade. 

Though the number of active cases too has declined, over 80,000 patients continue to be admitted to hospitals. As many as 8,538 new positive cases were reported with a test positivity rate of close to 11% on Sunday.

“Disbanding the Covid brigade will result in a severe shortage of hands in many hospitals and Covid care centres. The government will have to augment human resources to deal with the situation. It can be funded by special projects of local bodies or by utilising the money collected for the vaccine challenge,” said Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA) general secretary T N Suresh.

The 20,000-strong brigade consisted of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, non-medical professionals and multipurpose workers.

They were involved in supplementing the workforce in Covid hospitals and care centres.

They have been the mainstay of swab collection and logistics management in Covid first-line treatment centres, second line treatment centres and domiciliary care centres.

Currently, the state has 600 Covid care centres. According to the data with the health department, 545 patients were newly admitted to hospitals on Sunday, October 25, 2021.

The government has decided to disband the Covid brigade in phases, citing an improvement in the pandemic situation and a lack of funds from the centre.

The brigade members, who joined Covid duty on contract, are staging protests at various centres against the decision to terminate their services without paying incentive dues.

“A day after they fired me, the hospital authorities asked me to be on duty for another day as they couldn’t manage the shortfall in hands. I worked as a nursing attendant for more than a year and I have seen permanent staff keeping away from duty for fear of catching the infection,” said Rajeev V, an attender who lost the job alongside 150 others in the first batch of retrenchment from the Thiruvananthapuram medical college hospital.

He complained that the government owed them close to Rs 60,000, and hospital authorities were evasive when asked about salary dues.

A Grade II staffer like Rajeev gets nearly Rs 23,000 a month. Almost half of the money is the contribution from the Centre.

Protests

The brigade members, who joined duty on contract, are staging protests at various centres against the decision to terminate their services without paying incentive dues.



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