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Indian medics: Why should we risk our lives?

Our doctors don’t have enough, but made in India PPEs allegedly sent abroad, CSR money being diverted to PM Cares fund

Karuna John 02 Apr 2020

Covid 19Image Courtesy: qz.com

On April 2, a doctor who works at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, tested positive for COVID19, said Dr DK Sharma, medical superintendent. “His sample has been sent for retesting along with family and other contacts. He was not involved in any patient care services,” added Dr Sharma. 

However, reality has hit home with the medical staff at India’s premier medical institute. The doctors have been raising the issue of an imminent shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks. While the doctor who has tested positive was not on duty since March 20, he apparently came into the campus for a small farewell event, say sources. Even if we assume that all precautions were taken, and everyone was wearing PPEs, the fact remains that there isn't enough for everyone working, or visiting in the hospital to wear.

Indian doctors and nurses are risking their lives, and careers, and have been saying for a long time now that they do not have enough protection as they brace themselves for the deluge of patients that may begin once testing for Coronavirus is increased across the country. Instead of the actual demand for PPEs being met, they have got reassurances at best. Those who can afford to have bought some as a personal stock. But that too will not be enough.

“Why put the life of self and family at risk due to negligence of hospital and government,” said Dr Srinivasan Rajkumar, general secretary, Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS, New Delhi. The AIIMS RDA has also made a serious allegation and said that its administration has diverted Rs 50 Lakhs to PM CARES fund. The money was donated by Bharat Dynamics as CSR, and to be used exclusively to procure PPEs. “This diversion has been viewed as extremely irresponsible activity by the CSR and Hospital Administration of AIIMS, New Delhi while conveying contradictory information via email and other channels of communication to us. We demand an explanation for acting in this manner and putting our work into vain,” said Dr Srinivas.

Meanwhile, doctors and healthcare workers in Serbia must have had mixed feelings when they donned their new medical protective equipment that just landed from India. Funded by the European Union, the Serbian government has bought tonnes of medical supplies from India, which were flown in with support from (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) over the past few days.


This massive delivery is a shame on our system when Indian doctors are begging their authorities to provide masks, gloves, face shields, hazmat body suits etc to protect them as they are on the frontlines of the battle against Covid-19. Doctors have begun testing positive for Coronavirus, and many of them are now in isolation. More fear for their lives, so much so that they want to quit active duty, and many more have begun protesting in public demanding more personal protective gear before they themselves start falling seriously ill with Covid-19. They are only too aware how quickly the illness can progress irrespective of the age or gender of the infected.

That tonnes of protective gear landed in Belgrade was confirmed by UNDP in Serbia itself, “The 2nd cargo Boeing 747 with 90t of medical protective equipment landed from India to Belgrade today. The transportation of valuable supplies purchased by @SerbianGov has been fully funded by the #EU while @UNDPSerbia organized the flight & ensured the fastest possible delivery.” 

Adding insult to injury, come news reports stating that the union health ministry has denied any knowledge of the sale to Serbia. According to a report by NDTV, it will take almost six months for the demand of PPE requirements in India to be met even if manufacturing is done on war footing.

Desperate in the face of the  shortage of PPEs  Many Indian doctors, nurses and technicians have been wearing raincoats, sun glasses, non medical grade visors, even cloth masks and DIY shoe covers to protect themselves in any way they can.

They have begun recording video messages hoping that the government takes note and addresses this crisis before the Coronavirus starts infecting frontline workers. For example, this protest by medical staff at Patiala hospital as reported by the Tribute:

 

According to an NDTV investigation, the over 100 tonnes of material sent to Serbia in multiple consignments included 50 tons of surgical gloves, apart from masks and coveralls. The report cites the spokesperson of Kochi airport confirming that yet another consignment that included 35 lakh pairs of sterile surgical gloves was sent to Belgrade on March 29. India is sending the crucial material to help fight the ‘global war against COVID2019' ' when doctors closer home are facing one challenge after another.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in India on January 30, 2020. “The very next day, i.e. on January 31, the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a notification banning the export of all sorts of PPE like surgical masks, gloves, ventilators,” reports The Wire adding that this decision was amended a few days later. “The commerce ministry issued an order on February 8, 2020 allowing the export of all types of gloves except NBR gloves as well as surgical masks.” More items are added to this list till, “March 19 and March 24 that the government took decisions to ban PPE items, raw materials required to make them and other related goods.”

Add to that the fact that India did not have enough PPEs stocks to begin with. “India did not stockpile COVID protective equipment for health workers despite clear WHO guidelines,” The Caravan had reported.

Everyday, news reports of discrimination against doctors by landlords, lack of support from superiors and even violence against doctors come in from across the country that needs their help to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. “Health Officials Attacked By Locals In Madhya Pradesh's Indore, 2 Doctors Injured. A complaint has been filed at Chhatripura police station. A police officer said that during the incident the protesters also broke the barricade,” reports Outlook.

A report from The NewsMinute shows how the family of a man who succumbed to COVID-19 attacked doctors at Hyderabad’s Gandhi Hospital hospital. “Three relatives of the man who died were also being treated for COVID-19 in the same ward,” said the report.

The president of Telangana jJnior Doctors Association (T-JUDA) – Dr. KUN Vishnu wrote to the authorities demanding that a case be filed against the attackers. He also sought CRPF deployment to ensure doctors are able to work safely. And he asked that all healthcare providers be given enough PPEs.

Those who want to quit their jobs, and save their lives and that of their families are being threatened too, said a doctor.   

 

Indian medics: Why should we risk our lives?

Our doctors don’t have enough, but made in India PPEs allegedly sent abroad, CSR money being diverted to PM Cares fund

Covid 19Image Courtesy: qz.com

On April 2, a doctor who works at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, tested positive for COVID19, said Dr DK Sharma, medical superintendent. “His sample has been sent for retesting along with family and other contacts. He was not involved in any patient care services,” added Dr Sharma. 

However, reality has hit home with the medical staff at India’s premier medical institute. The doctors have been raising the issue of an imminent shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks. While the doctor who has tested positive was not on duty since March 20, he apparently came into the campus for a small farewell event, say sources. Even if we assume that all precautions were taken, and everyone was wearing PPEs, the fact remains that there isn't enough for everyone working, or visiting in the hospital to wear.

Indian doctors and nurses are risking their lives, and careers, and have been saying for a long time now that they do not have enough protection as they brace themselves for the deluge of patients that may begin once testing for Coronavirus is increased across the country. Instead of the actual demand for PPEs being met, they have got reassurances at best. Those who can afford to have bought some as a personal stock. But that too will not be enough.

“Why put the life of self and family at risk due to negligence of hospital and government,” said Dr Srinivasan Rajkumar, general secretary, Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS, New Delhi. The AIIMS RDA has also made a serious allegation and said that its administration has diverted Rs 50 Lakhs to PM CARES fund. The money was donated by Bharat Dynamics as CSR, and to be used exclusively to procure PPEs. “This diversion has been viewed as extremely irresponsible activity by the CSR and Hospital Administration of AIIMS, New Delhi while conveying contradictory information via email and other channels of communication to us. We demand an explanation for acting in this manner and putting our work into vain,” said Dr Srinivas.

Meanwhile, doctors and healthcare workers in Serbia must have had mixed feelings when they donned their new medical protective equipment that just landed from India. Funded by the European Union, the Serbian government has bought tonnes of medical supplies from India, which were flown in with support from (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) over the past few days.


This massive delivery is a shame on our system when Indian doctors are begging their authorities to provide masks, gloves, face shields, hazmat body suits etc to protect them as they are on the frontlines of the battle against Covid-19. Doctors have begun testing positive for Coronavirus, and many of them are now in isolation. More fear for their lives, so much so that they want to quit active duty, and many more have begun protesting in public demanding more personal protective gear before they themselves start falling seriously ill with Covid-19. They are only too aware how quickly the illness can progress irrespective of the age or gender of the infected.

That tonnes of protective gear landed in Belgrade was confirmed by UNDP in Serbia itself, “The 2nd cargo Boeing 747 with 90t of medical protective equipment landed from India to Belgrade today. The transportation of valuable supplies purchased by @SerbianGov has been fully funded by the #EU while @UNDPSerbia organized the flight & ensured the fastest possible delivery.” 

Adding insult to injury, come news reports stating that the union health ministry has denied any knowledge of the sale to Serbia. According to a report by NDTV, it will take almost six months for the demand of PPE requirements in India to be met even if manufacturing is done on war footing.

Desperate in the face of the  shortage of PPEs  Many Indian doctors, nurses and technicians have been wearing raincoats, sun glasses, non medical grade visors, even cloth masks and DIY shoe covers to protect themselves in any way they can.

They have begun recording video messages hoping that the government takes note and addresses this crisis before the Coronavirus starts infecting frontline workers. For example, this protest by medical staff at Patiala hospital as reported by the Tribute:

 

According to an NDTV investigation, the over 100 tonnes of material sent to Serbia in multiple consignments included 50 tons of surgical gloves, apart from masks and coveralls. The report cites the spokesperson of Kochi airport confirming that yet another consignment that included 35 lakh pairs of sterile surgical gloves was sent to Belgrade on March 29. India is sending the crucial material to help fight the ‘global war against COVID2019' ' when doctors closer home are facing one challenge after another.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in India on January 30, 2020. “The very next day, i.e. on January 31, the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a notification banning the export of all sorts of PPE like surgical masks, gloves, ventilators,” reports The Wire adding that this decision was amended a few days later. “The commerce ministry issued an order on February 8, 2020 allowing the export of all types of gloves except NBR gloves as well as surgical masks.” More items are added to this list till, “March 19 and March 24 that the government took decisions to ban PPE items, raw materials required to make them and other related goods.”

Add to that the fact that India did not have enough PPEs stocks to begin with. “India did not stockpile COVID protective equipment for health workers despite clear WHO guidelines,” The Caravan had reported.

Everyday, news reports of discrimination against doctors by landlords, lack of support from superiors and even violence against doctors come in from across the country that needs their help to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. “Health Officials Attacked By Locals In Madhya Pradesh's Indore, 2 Doctors Injured. A complaint has been filed at Chhatripura police station. A police officer said that during the incident the protesters also broke the barricade,” reports Outlook.

A report from The NewsMinute shows how the family of a man who succumbed to COVID-19 attacked doctors at Hyderabad’s Gandhi Hospital hospital. “Three relatives of the man who died were also being treated for COVID-19 in the same ward,” said the report.

The president of Telangana jJnior Doctors Association (T-JUDA) – Dr. KUN Vishnu wrote to the authorities demanding that a case be filed against the attackers. He also sought CRPF deployment to ensure doctors are able to work safely. And he asked that all healthcare providers be given enough PPEs.

Those who want to quit their jobs, and save their lives and that of their families are being threatened too, said a doctor.   

 

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