Alarm Bells Ring As Corona Grips Dozen Odisha Docs
Bhubaneswar: The coronavirus infection is increasingly spreading among healthcare professionals and forcing them to go into quarantine. In Odisha, 12 medical practitioners have tested positive for COVID-19 in less than a week’s time and nine among them in the last two days.
Except for two senior doctors of Rourkela Government Hospital (RGH) who tested positive on Sunday, none of the other was on COVID-19 duty.
This has set the alarm bells ringing for the Odisha government and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is scheduled to attend a technical workshop through video conferencing on Wednesday. According to official sources, it will focus on furthering safety measures for health workers engaged in COVID-19 management. All CDMOs, medical colleges staff and other COVID hospital senior functionaries will attend the workshop.
FIVE IN AIIMS-BHUBANESWAR
Five days after a junior doctor tested positive for COVID-19 at AIIMS-Bhubaneswar, three senior resident doctors from surgery, pathology and pharmacology departments and one more junior doctor from dermatology in the premier institute were found to have contracted the virus on Tuesday (June 9).
AIIMS-Bhubaneswar director Gitanjali Batmanabane told the media that the three senior resident doctors were in quarantine and staying in a city-based apartment, which was declared a containment zone. Swab samples of 24 doctors staying there were sent for COVID-19 test and three were found to be positive, she said.
“The junior doctor stays in the hostel and had mild symptoms of COVID-19. Contact tracing is on,” she added.
Meanwhile, 10 more doctors, who had come in contact with the four, have been sent into quarantine.
The junior doctor, who had tested positive on June 4, had reportedly attended to a truck driver from Maharashtra who had met with an accident in the city and later tested positive for the virus.
TROUBLE IN MKCG
Monday (June 8) saw four junior doctors and eight nurses of MKCG Medical College and Hospital, Berhampur, testing positive for the virus, according to the health department update.
“The 12 persons have been moved to an isolation ward in the hospital,” superintendent of the medical college Santosh Kumar Mishra told the media.
The medicos and the nurses underwent the test after coming in contact with a COVID-19 patient, he said, adding, they were all asymptomatic.
A source in MKCG said that three among are anaesthesia PG students. They had attended the surgery of a patient, who had reportedly hidden his travel history to Surat. “Three anaesthesia PG students and a house surgeon have so far tested positive for the deadly virus. The other doctors who had come in direct contact with them have been quarantined,” the source said.
Swab samples of all staffers in Surgery, Anaesthesia and Obstetrics & Gynaecology departments are being collected for the COVID-19 test, the source added.
A doctor told Odisha Bytes that intubation, which is a regular procedure in surgery, itself leads to aerosol generation and therefore there is a high risk of transmission if the patient is COVID positive.
WHO CAN WEAR PPEs?
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recommended the use of PPEs and N95 masks only for those attending to severely ill patients while performing an aerosol-generating procedure in non-COVID hospitals while marking them as a high-risk category. “However, it is not mandatory. Therefore, medical practitioners are mostly attending to patients with a headgear, google and surgical mask, which put them at risk since most COVID-19 are asymptomatic,” the doctor added.
This is defeating the very purpose with which the Odisha government had built separate COVID hospitals to treat the infected persons and categorically stated that doctors, nurses and other para-medical staff engaged to treat COVID-19 patients would not handle other patients. It was also intended at ensuring the safety of people visiting government hospitals and medical colleges for check-ups.
This can be gauged from the fact that another doctor and a nurse of Nayagarh district headquarters hospital tested positive for COVID-19, on the same day.
Nayagarh Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) Sudhanshu Sarangi informed the duo had been shifted to SUM COVID hospital in Bhubaneswar. They too were asymptomatic.
“Other doctors and nurses who had come in contact with them in the hospital have been placed under quarantine. Besides, the surgery ward of the hospital has been sealed and is being sanitised,” he added.
MORE DOCTORS QUARANTINED
Meanwhile, two doctors, two nurses and 9 other health workers of PRM Medical College and Hospital in Mayurbhanj district were sent on home quarantine as they had come in contact with a woman, who later tested positive for coronavirus. Their swab samples have been sent for COVID-19 test.
Similarly, a doctor, who runs a private clinic at Ashok Nagar in Berhampur, and his staff were asked to undergo self-isolation at home after one of the patients undergoing treatment there tested corona positive on Monday. All the patients of the clinic have been shifted to MKCG, sources said.
DEMAND FOR PPEs
When Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on March 25 announced four-month advance salary for doctors, nurses and all health personnel across the state, the medical practitioners instead demanded proper supply of PPEs.
Earlier that month, Odisha Medical Service Association (OMSA) wrote to the Health Department, demanding “immediate steps for supply” of PPE kits to healthcare providers and doctors at the district level and in peripheral areas of the state. “There are insufficient masks, sanitizers and PPE kits. So there is a heavy chance of infection to health care providers. If that happens, we will enter into phase III of pandemic and that is very dangerous,” the letter warned.
In April, the All India Democratic Students’ Organization participated in an online protest campaign, demanding adequate supply of PPE to all the doctors and health workers.
“It is important that they must get all the required PPE so that they can be safe while providing treatment. The government must provide adequate number of PPE kits to doctors instead of announcing money for their kin in case of their untimely demise,” said Ganesh Tripathy, President of Odisha unit of AIDSO.
On April 21, the CM had announced Rs 50 lakh each for the families of all health workers and support staff who lose their lives in the fight against COVID-19.
Health Minister Naba Kishore Das and Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Pradipta Mohapatra could not be contacted for the status of PPEs for doctors despite repeated attempts.