Tamil Nadu

Staff nurse dies of COVID-19 at ‘hotspot’ RGGGH

Complaints of poor-quality masks and a lack of separate rooms for changing PPE have surfaced.

Complaints of poor-quality masks and a lack of separate rooms for changing PPE have surfaced.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Doctors say precautionary measures need to be stepped up

A staff nurse died of COVID-19 at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) on Sunday.

With several doctors, including seniors and postgraduates, having tested positive for the infection in the last few days, there are fears among the hospital’s staff that Tamil Nadu’s largest government tertiary care centre may have become a hotspot for COVID-19.

The increasing number of COVID-19 cases among healthcare providers has become a cause for worry at RGGGH. At least 60 PG doctors were isolated at ESI, Ayanavaram, after testing positive over the last three days. They included 44 who were residing at the PG men’s hostel. A number of senior doctors and assistant professors have also tested positive.

RGGGH authorities confirmed that a staff nurse, who was in her early fifties, died of COVID-19 at the hospital on Sunday. Reliable sources said that she had initially tested positive for COVID-19, but subsequently, repeat swab tests had returned negative for the infection. She returned to work after 14 days, and tested positive again.

“RGGGH has become a hotspot for COVID-19. First of all, patients with infectious diseases should be admitted to places where there is good ventilation and adequate natural sunlight. Both these factors are absent in the blocks where COVID-19 patients are being admitted,” a doctor said, on condition of anonymity.

Currently, patients who test positive are admitted to the Rheumatology Block, wards 205, 206, 215, 43 and 47 in Tower 2, while Tower 3 houses the COVID-19 outpatient department.

Earlier, healthcare providers posted on COVID-19 duty were granted a 14-day quarantine.

“With patient inflow increasing, the hospital is not providing a proper quarantine period to them,” the doctor alleged. “They (hospital authorities) have reduced the quarantine period to seven days, which is a mistake. They have changed the testing policy, and are screening only symptomatic healthcare providers,” he added. Many healthcare professionals complained of long working hours which were leading to increased exposure to the infection. Staff nurses were still on 12-hour duty, while doctors were on 12-hour duty at emergency OT.

Complaints of poor-quality masks and face shields and a lack of separate rooms for the donning and doffing of personal protective equipment in Towers 2 and 3 have also surfaced. A doctor who had tested positive said, “Many doctors who had tested positive and had been discharged were asked to return to duty the very next day after testing negative for COVID-19. Such decisions should not be taken based on a single swab result. Strategies should be drawn up as per the prevailing conditions in a hotspot.”

Some doctors pointed out that a few staff members, including technicians, had tested negative, but their chest CT scans had COVID-19 pneumonia-like presentation. “The point here is that a negative swab result does not mean we are safe,” a doctor said. COVID-19 patients from the Rheumatology Block were being brought to a different block for CT scans, and this could lead to the spread of the infection, doctors noted.

A PG doctor said that all the inmates of the men’s hostel should be quarantined even if their swabs returned negative, since the place had turned into a hotspot. “The infection can spread easily if they report for duty,” he said.

It was time that all blocks were fumigated, a doctor said. “Containment of the entire hospital is important. We have to create a negative pressure suctioning system in the blocks,” he added.

An official said that posting doctors on duty on a rotational basis will save them a lot of stress. “We have been insisting on the creation of a reserve force right from the beginning. We need to give our doctors some breathing time,” the official said.

However, a hospital official said the RGGGH was running smoothly. “Most of the affected PGs are asymptomatic. We are taking up massive disinfection measures at the hospital, hostels and CRRI quarters. A team of health inspectors and workers has been deputed to the hospital to carry out disinfection work inside the buildings every four hours,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 3:59:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/staff-nurse-dies-of-covid-19-at-hotspot-rgggh/article31829056.ece

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