After seven medical staff members from GMCH-32, including three doctors tested positive for coronavirus in the last four days, the hospital has begun testing staff members aggressively, examining 78 doctors and about 20 more members of healthcare staff on Tuesday. The 78 doctors include residents who had been posted in OT wards from the anesthesiology, orthopedic and general surgery department since April 20.
Earlier, many residents and members of nursing staff from the hospital had complained about not being tested for the disease despite showcasing flu-like symptoms. “However, the administration has suddenly woken up since the hospital itself has become a hotspot for cases, and now all those who wish to will get tested. But this will happen in batches because there is a limited capacity for testing,” said a junior resident who wished to remain anonymous. The hospital has a capacity to test 70 to 80 samples a day, and Director Principal B S Chavan states that if need be, samples will be sent to IMTECH for testing.
PPE kits to be worn in OTs
Before the hospital became a hotspot for COVID-19 patients, most members of staff outside the screening area for COVID-19 were not wearing full protective gear, including an N95 mask or PPE kit. One of the GMCH doctors now admitted to PGIMER with COVID-19 reveals that she was not wearing protective gear except for a surgical mask while on duty in the OT.
Furthermore, patients scheduled for surgery were not screened or tested before they were operated upon. “This was an issue since people in the OT didn’t wear PPE, nor were the patients screened for COVID-19, because all of them came for other serious and emergency illnesses, their COVID-19 like symptoms didn’t come under the radar,” a resident doctor said.
However, an official source has now confirmed that all posted in OT wards will wear PPE and all patients admitted to OT will be tested for COVID-19.
Contractual sanitation and ward attendants without proper equipment
However, most other staff members, especially those posted in the non-OT emergency wards, are not provided either with PPE or an N95 mask. Medical staff lower down the hierarchy such as contractual sanitation attendants and ward attendants often have nothing but a simple cloth mark as protection and gloves. “People in the other wards do not require protection in the form of PPE kits,” said an official source. However, hospital staff is weary of this limited protection since COVID-19 patients can potentially crop up in any emergency ward or area. “Someone could come to medical emergency with some other disease but still have COVID-19. What is the logic in not providing the amount of safety measures to all in the hospital?” a member of the nursing staff asked.
A Supreme Court ruling has also asked the government to update guidelines on the rational use of PPE to ensure that all healthcare staff involved in working in “non-Covid areas” also be provided full PPE kits.
GMCH junior residents ask for central pay
Junior residents from the hospital have also demanded to be paid under the central pay scale and not in accordance with the Punjab state scale. “Our senior residents get paid according to central pay scale, so do junior residents of PGIMER. We are doing as much work as anyone and exposing ourselves to COVID-19. It is unfair to pay us less than the JRs in PGIMER,” says a junior resident from the hospital.
PGIMER mentoring 31 colleges for testing
PGIMER has been identified as one of the institutes by ICMR to mentor other medical colleges on developing testing facilities. Under this, 40 lab personnel from 31 government medical institutes and colleges from across the neighbouring states have been trained by the institute to build their testing capacity. Earlier, PGIMER also trained IMTECH and GMCH-32 to begin testing. Currently it is also aiding the command hospital and Civil Hospital in Sector 6, Panchkula, from the Tricity.
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