A major private hospital in Mumbai was shut to new patients and declared a coronavirus containment zone yesterday after 26 nurses and three doctors tested positive, an official said.
Since the virus hit India - which has been under lockdown since March 25 - medical workers have complained about not being given adequate protective gear.
Mumbai city authority spokesman Vijay Khabale-Patil said that the Wockhardt Hospital has been declared a “containment zone” after the cases were confirmed.
“Three hundred staffers have been quarantined and the hospital is shut,” he said.
The infections reportedly happened after two Covid-19 patients and two suspected cases were shifted from the Kasturba Hospital a fortnight ago.
While the two patients were kept in the isolation ward, the two suspect cases were kept with other patients in the ICU from where the infection may have spread.
Last week, two nurses serving in the ICU tested positive, and the infections then spread quickly.
The municipal corporation has taken the swabs of another 270 staffers and patients at the hospital for testing, and pending the outcome, the hospital has been declared a containment zone.
Since such a large number of cases have come from a single location, the authorities have ordered a probe to ascertain if Covid-19 protocols were adhered to while dealing with the two patients and two suspects admitted there last month.
The United Nurses Association (UNA) in Mumbai accused hospital management of failing to protect staff by refusing to let them wear appropriate safety gear.
“They told the medical staffers to wear simple (surgical) masks and attend to the patient,” said Akash S Pillai, UNA general secretary for Maharashtra.
“They were thinking that if the staff wore protective gear, family members of Covid-19 patients would get scared,” he said.
“Many well-known hospitals in Mumbai and Pune are putting their staffers through the same risks,” he said.
He added that Wockhardt waited too long to carry out tests on its staff, thereby increasing the possibility for infections to spread.
Meanwhile, doctors at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) yesterday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern over targeting of doctors and other healthcare professionals for raising genuine issues related to Covid-19.
“Over the last few days, our frontline healthcare workers - doctors, nurses and other support staff - have come forward with issues related to availability of personal protective equipment (PPEs), Covid-19 testing equipment and quarantine facilities on social media,” the Resident Doctors’ Association of the hospital said.
“There have been incidents when doctors were targeted for raising genuine concerns related to Covid-19. They are even transferred or sacked in some cases,” RDA president Adarsh Pratap Singh said.
He said many doctors had reported to the association threats issued by their institutions for raising genuine concerns saying “their social media accounts are under scrutiny and they will face the consequences.”
The association urged the government to create healthy space for debate and discussion to aid healthcare workers rather than ridicule them.
“We demand all punishments withdrawn and their honour restored,” the association said.Singh said the government should use the feedback given by the healthcare workers “instead of rejecting them.”
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