DESPITE THREE of its staff having contracted the novel coronavirus, the PGIMER, does not have a defined protocol for quarantining employees who have been exposed to infected patients. Due to this, contractual health staff, especially sanitation and hospital attendants, are in constant fear of catching infection or becoming carriers of the virus. The three PGI staff who now have COVID-19 used to go back home to city’s populous neighborhoods after work, until they tested positive.
“We are dependent on daily wages so most of us want to work no matter what, hence many have been exposed to the virus. There are quarantine facilities for contractual staff but its limited, and they are only provided when we hound them for provisions,” said a leader of the Sanitation Employees’ Union at PGI, who is posted at the mortuary. The employee alleged that those who have been quarantined at the Red Cross Sarai do not receive adequate food and basic resources on time and have to keep calling colleagues for such arrangements. “I have been handling coronavirus patients’ bodies myself. Despite all appeals they haven’t placed me in quarantine yet,” he added. There are around 2,500 sanitation and hospital attendants contractually employed at PGI. “They come from Khudda Lahora, Daddu Majra, Dhanas or Nayagaon. Most of them come from Nayagaon in Mohali,” said the union leader.
In a letter to PGI Director, the Mohali DC claimed that 400 PGI employees reside in Nayagaon, which is a COVID-19 hotspot and eight of nine cases in Nayagaon are either PGI employees or their primary contacts.
Of the three PGI staff who got infected, two were sent home despite being in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. One was an HA who worked in the communicable diseases ward, where suspected patients were hospitalised. The staffer was going home despite his direct exposure to the patients. The second is a close neighbour of the HA, who was employed as a cook in the Advanced Pediatric Centre’s kitchen. The cook was also quarantined in his overcrowded residential building in Nayagaon until he tested positive Thursday. The third such staff, who was a resident of Dhanas slum colony, also used to go back home everyday despite working at the communicable diseases ward.
“Who feel they can’t go home can ask us for quarantine facility, but we don’t quarantine every staff,” said a PGI spokesperson.
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