As many as 83 junior doctors of the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) in Patna, which has been designated as the State’s first COVID-19 special hospital, have written to their superintendent seeking a 15-day home quarantine as many of them have developed symptoms of the viral disease in the absence of protective kits and masks.
Bihar has reported six positive cases and one fatality so far.
The NMCH junior doctors’ petition to the hospital superintendent has been forwarded to the Principal Health Secretary Sanjay Kumar. The junior doctors expressed serious reservation over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), N-95 masks, gloves and protective gowns in the hospital.
“We’re on duty without all necessary kits and masks, which makes many of us vulnerable to infection...many of us have developed symptoms of COVID-19...but nobody is here to listen us,” said Ravi Ranjan Kumar Raman, president of the NMCH Junior Doctors Association.
“We face acute shortage of PPE kits, N-95 masks and other necessary protective gear ...we’re still waiting for these to come... till then we’re left to serve and die herewhen our principal is handling everything through videoconference,” they alleged.
On March 23, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had announced a monetary incentive equal to one month basic salary for doctors and paramedical staff for their contribution to fighting COVID-19. However, the junior doctors have written to the government to “utilise the money to provide them PPE kits and N-95 masks.”
The United Resident & Doctors Association of India has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a letter written on March 25, to the plight of the NMCH junior doctors.
“A recent incidence of Nalanda Medical College in Patna, Bihar has been brought to our notice where 83 resident doctors who had history of exposure to positive patients are now having symptoms and are suspected of being positive. No tests have been done, nor the said doctors have been quarantined which may complicate the situation. We request you to kindly direct authorities not to ignore such grievous situations”, the letter said.
Earlier, Bihar’s Principal Health Secretary issued a detailed advisory, subsequently supplemented with further advice, to the civil surgeons and DMs of all districts, putting response and recovery teams in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing acute scarcity of PPE kits and N-95 masks, the government has asked doctors to use HIV protection kits. “But, the HIV protection kit does not fully cover the face up to the neck as compared to the triple layered N-95 masks... it also does not have goggles to protect the eyes,” the doctors said.
On Wednesday, the Principal Health Secretary said that 475 PPE kits to the NMCH and 200 to the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) were provided on March 25. However, doctors from all the nine State-run medical colleges and hospitals, which are mapped for screening COVID-19 cases, have lamented that they face acute shortage of PPE kits, N-95 masks, shoes, gowns, gloves, even sanitizers and other necessary gears to deal with the situation.
The government, meanwhile, has asked Jeevika workers to prepare nasal masks of cloth and permitted a factory in Vaishali district to produce sanitizers.
The government on Thursday, though, announced a ₹100-crore package from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for those from the State stranded across the country due to the lockdown.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor welcomed the government’s move. He tweeted, “After all the public outcry, GoB (Bihar government) has announced new measures to help daily wage workers and poor people stranded across India due to the #lockdown. This includes additional fund of 100Cr from the Chief Minister's relief fund. Thank you all for adding your voice to the cause”. On March 25, Mr Kishor, while tweeting “shameonyou” to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, had questioned the latter for “abandoning” hundreds of people from Bihar trapped in Delhi and other parts of the country”.
Bihar, so far, has reported six COVID-19 positive cases, out of which one has lost his life. A youth too died on Thursday at Bettiah in West Champaran district but his test result at the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI) in Patna was later found “negative”.
As many as 275 samples have been collected in the State till March 25, of which 268 were found to be negative, result of one sample still awaited and two rejected.