The PGIMER Nurses’ Welfare Association on Thursday wrote a letter to the director of the institution, voicing their concerns against recommendations made by a committee headed by Professor Arunaloke Chakrabarti, from the Department of Medical Microbiology, on altering quarantine and testing guidelines for healthcare workers on COVID duty. According to these recommendations, nurses should be posted on COVID duty for a period of 10 days instead of the current seven-day-long duty, and be given optional five-day quarantine period instead of the current mandated seven-day quarantine period post-COVID duty.
“This is a highly unfair recommendation which, if implemented, will expose so many others in different departments of the hospital to the disease as healthcare workers could be immediately posted for non-Covid duty without a quarantine period. Furthermore, the five-day optional quarantine period will be taken out of our usual quota of nine holidays in a month,” said a nursing official from the institute who wishes to remain anonymous. Apart from the limited quarantine period, the committee recommends that testing of healthcare workers should not be done in routine at the end of a worker’s quarantine period but only be conducted in case of a breach in PPE. Furthermore, all quarantine, isolation and treatment of staff will be determined after a risk assessment is conducted by a senior nursing officer.
In their letter to the director of PGIMER, the nursing association has also stated that the new recommendations by the committee have not highlighted the hours for which healthcare workers will conduct their duty during a COVID shift. Since the committee in spirit recommends that the institution shift back to the normal routine for staffers, nurses are also worried that they will be asked to do 12-hour-long duty at night, which would be impossible to do in a PPE kit.
The nurses’ association also stated in their letter that staff cannot afford to stay at home while conducting duty in COVID wards, since most do not have the houses to isolate themselves away from their families and fear the stigma they and their families might face in their neighbourhood if they come back home post-COVID duty every day. The letter concluded by requesting the director to maintain quarantine guidelines as they currently are and conduct tests on all officials on COVID duty.
However, a spokesperson for PGI said, “The present policy is to adequately staff the Nehru Hospital Extension, which is the COVID-19 centre for UT. PGI administration is aware of the fact that the nurses make the heart of any health care system. In this context officers of the nursing cadre will be posted for 10 days in COVID area with 5 days leave and then to non-COVID19 area with four days leave. In addition to to that, PGIMER in collaboration with UT administration is providing lodging and boarding in Hotel Parkview of the city.”
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