At least 750 doctors and hundreds more nurses and paramedics from the six major hospitals in Delhi are currently down with Covid-19. Although most of them have mild symptoms and are in home isolation, it has taken away a huge chunk of the workforce, resulting in hospitals having to curtail routine clinics and surgeries.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is worst hit, with nearly 350 resident doctors currently in isolation. “And, these are just resident doctors. Some faculty members and many nurses and paramedics have also tested positive,” said a resident doctor from the hospital.
Another resident doctor and a senior faculty member confirmed the numbers. “There are many people who are testing positive. There are many from the director’s office who have the infection. However, people must not panic, the disease is not as severe as last time,” said the faculty member.
“We have redeployed available medical, nursing, technical and support manpower to ensure smooth functioning of patient care areas,” said a senior official from the hospital, admitting that there was a staff crunch with many testing positive in a short period of time.
The hospital curtailed its out-patient services and stopped all routine admissions and surgeries from Friday to free beds and ensure that doctors and other medical staff are not stretched too thin. “This time, those who come in contact with positive patients or colleagues are asked to continue working. Of course, they say it is because the symptoms are mild but it also helps with the manpower situation,” said the resident doctor.
According to hospital sources, over 100 healthcare workers tested positive at AIIMS in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of staff in quarantine to over 400.
At Lok Nayak, which is the only Delhi government hospital designated for the treatment of Omicron patients, 29 persons from the hospital have tested positive officially, with a senior administrator saying that many more – including junior resident doctors – are in isolation.
A resident doctor from the hospital said, “In the anaesthesia department, all but two or three residents have tested positive. They are the most involved in the care of Covid-19 patients. One-third of all doctors and nurses have tested positive. Of course, this affects services.”
The outpatient clinics at the hospital have been closed for new patients and the old patients are also restricted to about 50 to 100 per department. Only emergency surgeries are being scheduled.
At Safdarjung Hospital, nearly 200 resident doctors are currently positive. Those who have mild symptoms have to stay in isolation for seven days. “The hospital has decided to hire 302 non-academic junior residents to fill the vacancies due to the delay in NEET-PG counselling. Some senior residents will also be hired on contractual basis,” said a resident doctor from the hospital.
The hospital has curtailed the timings for OPD registrations to ensure fewer people come in for consultations. “Practically, giving quarantine time to doctors who are exposed is not possible. In my unit, three of the four people tested positive. Of course the fourth is a close contact but if he stops working, who will work,” said a resident doctor.
At the central government-run RML hospital, there are at least 90 doctors in isolation. “Those who are not positive are taking up more shifts and working longer hours to ensure that the services do not get disrupted,” said a resident doctor from the hospital. Another resident doctor added, “We are asking the administration to stop routine services for the time being till the peak passes.”
At Lady Hardinge Medical College and the two associated hospitals, nearly 100 resident doctors are currently positive. At both Lady Hardinge and RML, discussions are on to stop routine surgeries.
At Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, 175 staff members currently have Covid, of which 125 are doctors. “This is in the hospital alone, there are many from the medical college who are also positive. We were working with 66% junior residents, now many are testing positive. This has increased the burden on the existing residents,” said a senior hospital official. “It does seem like we may face staff shortage this time,” the official added.