Three days after three Ludhiana hospitals were issued showcause notices for refusing admission to a Covid patient, a leading tertiary care hospital in the district refused to admit any more Covid patients or increase its number of beds, citing a strike by their nursing staff.
On Sunday, the nursing staff of Satguru Partap Singh (SPS) Hospital sat on a dharna, complaining against roster duties being assigned by the HR department and not by hospital authorities. Dr Rajesh Kundra, medical superintendent of the hospital, said, “We will take care of existing patients but till the time our issue is not resolved, we will not do any new admissions of patients.”
Ludhiana has the maximum number of Covid patients in Punjab and has reported the maximum number of deaths due to the virus as well. Despite this, the district has been reeling under a shortage of ‘level 3’ beds (meant for critical patients).
On August 6, CMCH, Bhagwan Charitable Hospital and Oswal Cancer Hospital had been served showcause notices asking them to explain why they did not admit one Joginder Pal (51), on the intervening night of August 3 and 4. Pal got admission in Ludhiana’s civil hospital on August 4 but died the same day after testing positive for Covid-19, and was also allegedly not given proper treatment. Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu had demanded an inquiry in this matter, following which the notices were issued.
Moreover, on July 26, a showcause notice had also been issued to DMCH for refusing admission to a patient who later also died in the civil hospital. DMCH had no ‘level 3’ bed on July 24, due to which they had allegedly refused admission.
On Sunday morning, the nursing staff of SPS — a hospital managed by the Namdhari sect of Bhaini Sahib — went on dharna regarding their roster duties, which they said were being made by the HR department now and not by the hospital, as was being done earlier. They also complained that they were being subjected to longer duty hours in Covid wards and were concerned over many health workers testing positive one after another. They sat on dharna for about four hours on G T Road and Sandeep Kumar, ADC (Development) and Covid nodal officer in Ludhiana, interacted with them for about 2 hours.
Dr Rajesh Kundra, medical superintendent of SPS Hospital, said, “A few of our staff members are objecting to doing duties in Covid wards. We have dedicated 50 beds for Covid patients, of which 12 are for ‘level 3’ patients. We were planning to increase these beds to 70 while ‘level 3’ beds would have been increased to 17. However, till the time this issue is not resolved, we will not be able to increase beds nor admit any new patient. As of now, 40 patients are still in our hospital. We will be taking care of these 40 patients as of now. We have asked the administration to intervene and get the matter resolved.”
On July 31, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Anurag Aggarwal had asked private hospitals to dedicate more beds for Covid patients as Ludhiana was running short on a daily basis. Private hospitals were even asked to dedicate 50 per cent of their ICU and non-ICU beds for Covid patients. On August 4, he had issued a notification on amendments to the Punjab Epidemic Diseases Covid-19 regulations, 2020, on March 5. It stated, “Government can prescribe maximum charges that a private hospital/medical college can take for treatment of Covid-19 patients. This will cover patients going on their own to private institutions or being referred by the government. Government can direct a private hospital/medical college to earmark the entire hospital/medical college or part thereof for treatment of Covid-19 patients. However, a private hospital/medical college would be taken over as a last resort…”
Nodal Officer Sandeep Kumar told The Indian Express, “Only a few nurses of SPS Hospital sat on dharna. There are 300 nursing staff in that hospital and more are being recruited. Hence, I don’t think there will be any issue. I have categorically told them that patients should not suffer at any cost and they are bound to provide treatment to Covid patients in this pandemic. Moreover, a few of the nursing staff have an internal tussle regarding the roster system of the hospital rather than working in Covid wards.”
Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu said, “Roster duties are not a major issue. Hence, hospital should increase beds soon rather than saying that no new admissions will be done. In this pandemic, private as well as government hospitals should work as a team. Private hospitals should not refuse patients citing minor issues.”
SPS’ medical superintendent Dr Kundra said, “I have asked nurses to make their own roster and give the same to me. However I am yet to hear from them as of now. We are trying our best and we have done dialysis of Covid patients. Many patients on ventilator have also survived. I am hopeful the issue will be resolved soon.”
Till now, 206 ‘level 3’ beds have been created in Ludhiana’s tertiary private hospitals, of which 89 were vacant till 6.30 pm on Sunday evening. Now 30 hospitals have agreed to provide ‘level 3’ beds in Ludhiana, of which 7 are main hospitals with beds ranging from 9 to 60, and the rest have earmarked beds only 1-5.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines