Assam doctor’s body protests 11-day covid ward duty

In a strongly-worded letter to Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, it also sought to know why a large number of doctors were infected with coronavirus infection while treating patients.




The Assam branch of Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Tuesday expressed resentment over the state government’s recent policy changes on the management of COVID-19 situation, claiming that they are difficult to follow and will not serve any purpose.

In a strongly-worded letter to Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, it also sought to know why a large number of doctors were infected with coronavirus infection while treating patients.

The minister did not reply to the message sent by PTI for his reaction till the filing of this report. Senior officials were also not available for comment.

Taking exception to the government decisions such as increasing hospital beds “without manpower planning” and allotting health workers continuous 11-day duty in COVID wards, the doctors’ body urged Sarma to take experienced healthcare professionals into confidence to make proper planning in combatting the pandemic.

Assam’s BJP-led coalition government has changed several rules after a steep rise in COVID-19 cases were detected in late June.

“IMA strongly protests the government’s order of engaging health workers and doctors in eleven days’ continuous service in the COVID wards and then only three days of quarantine before re-engaging them in COVID duties subject to testing negative for the disease,” the letter read.

Working in COVID wards continuously for 11 days wearing full PPE kits in summer, without air conditioning in most centres, would be very exerting and exhausting for health workers, the letter claimed, adding that the IMA fears that the decision will demoralise front-line workers.

Increasing hospital beds without manpower planning will be a futile exercise as “we have very limited resource in terms of doctors and health workers and with the present surge of COVID-19 patients, it will be difficult for the government to control the situation if proper planning is not done”, the IMA claimed in the letter.

The IMA also objected to the government’s decision to switch over to antigen tests for checking health workers engaged in COVID duty, asserting that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said a negative result by this test does not rule out COVID and requires confirmation by an RT-PCR test.

Assam IMA President Dr Satyajit Borah claimed in the letter that such “unplanned and insensitive steps” will further endanger health workers and “the time is not far when the doctors and health workers will have to serve the people with COVID in person”.

In the letter, a copy of which is with PTI, the IMA demands a critical review by the government on why so many health workers and doctors are affected by the disease while working with patients suffering from COVID-19.

Around 60 doctors of the state have been afflicted with the disease, and no such figure is readily available for paramedics and other health workers, Borah told PTI.

The doctors’ body also urged the minister to take experienced healthcare professionals and groups in confidence to make a proper planning to face the challenges rather than “taking closed door whimsical decisions or else the much talked about successful Assam model will collapse in the no time”.

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