A Kerala-based 3.8 lakh-strong nurses’ association has approached the Supreme Court saying the government has not formulated a National Management Protocol for COVID-19 to address the serious concerns relating to imminent and extreme risks posed to the health and safety of medical personnel across the country.
Noting that the pandemic is seeing a “persisting and ever escalating spread” the United Nurses Association, represented by advocates Subhash Chandran and Biju P. Raman, pointed out that nurses and health workers are ill-equipped and exposed to infection.
“Health care workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak response and as such are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection. Hazards include pathogen exposure, long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, stigma, and physical and psychological violence etc,” the petition said.
No testing kits
The problems highlighted in the petition include lack of availability or sub-standard personal protective equipment(PPE) in numerous hospitals, non-availability of sufficient number of COVID-19 testing kits, lack of training on infection prevention and control, lack of basic facilities in isolation wards, mental harassment in the nature of forced over-time followed by negligible transport facilities and deduction of salary on account of leaves, health workers who are pregnant, lactating or immune compromised are being forced to work.
The association also urged the court to direct the government to expand the scope of personal accident cover provided under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19 to include all health care workers across sectors, including those recruited on ad hoc basis.