Dormitories, hostels and shared bathrooms for nurses on COVID-19 duty

The government has arranged suitable accommodation for doctors but nurses and other staff have to make do with basic or inadequate facilities

April 08, 2020 11:49 pm | Updated 11:50 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of the COVID-19 ward at LNJP Hospital in the Capital.

A view of the COVID-19 ward at LNJP Hospital in the Capital.

When Laila*, a nurse and mother of three children, started working at a COVID-19 ward of the LNJP Hospital in mid-March, she used to carry a bag with a few clothes and toiletries in the hope that the hospital would provide accommodation. It turned out to be a false hope.

Naturally, she was disappointed. “I used to return home after work with the bag. I would go to the bathroom straight and wash my clothes in hot water so that my husband and children would be safe. Of course, we were scared for our families,” said the woman in her fifties, who has been working as a nurse at the LNJP hospital for the past two decades.

The nurse, who lives in Mayur Vihar stated that other nurses too used to carry bags in the beginning and after repeated requests, the hospital gave them rooms about 10 days later. By March 26, the government gave them accommodation in a hostel on the hospital premises, which was shut. “Two people stay in a room. But around six have to share the bathroom,” she said.

Home quarantine

After her 14-day work period got over (Delhi has a 14-day work and 14-day quarantine plan for health workers and medical professionals who are on Coronavirus duty) she has quarantined herself at her house, due to ‘lack’ of facilities at the government facility.

“My quarantine started on April 2 and for three-four days I stayed at the hostel. But on our floor, there are other nurses who are still working in COVID wards and we even have to share bathrooms with them. We go back after our shifts and sometimes wait for an hour to get the bathroom as everyone’s shift gets over at the same time and each one will be washing their clothes,” narrated Laila, who felt home was better.

Even as the nurses are struggling, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on March 30 that the government had arranged 100 individual rooms in The Lalit, a five-star hotel, for the doctors who are treating in COVID-19 wards. “We do not want any five-star rooms. We just need a proper room with an attached bathroom so that there is no exposure to the virus,” she said.

All the same, she said that the hostel was better than the dormitories provided to the nurses, where a large “number of people” have to share the bathroom.

“The government should treat everyone — doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and sanitation staff — at the same level if they want to fight the virus. The exposure is more for sanitation staff as they clean these spaces. They are less educated than us and the government should provide proper quarantine facilities for them too,” she said.

The nurses’ association has been sending emails to the Chief Minister and Union Health Minister almost every day, but they are yet to act, she informed.

(*name changed to protect identity)

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