At least 1,172 private doctors from Mumbai are willing to join government hospitals and fight the Covid-19 pandemic. With the new pool of doctors, the Maharashtra government is planning to scale up its isolation facilities in the city, the Covid-19 epicentre of the country.
While initial plan was to rope in private doctors for a month, the government may now extend their service for up to two months.
In a recent survey, the government had found that at least 10,000 private doctors had shut their clinics in Mumbai or stopped consulting patients amid the pandemic threat.
On May 4, to cope with rising number of Covid-19 hospitalisations, it had issued a notification asking over 25,000 registered allopathic doctors in Mumbai to fill forms, providing details of their specialisation, preference of area of work, current hospitals or clinics where they work and their addresses.
“You shall thereby convey your willingness and place of choice where you would like to render your services… Non-attendance of the duty will be considered as breach of Medical Council of India code of ethics that we administered at the time of obtaining degree and action will be initiated according to provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897,” the notification had stated.
Following this, some in the medical fraternity had expressed concerns of catching the infection and risk to their family, with several reaching out to the government to understand what will happen to their existing practice.
While the government was mulling using the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the Maharashtra Medical Council Act, 1965, to take action against doctors who do not comply, senior officials said they were surprised to see that there were some doctors who actually wanted to help the government.
Till Sunday evening, 7,231 doctors had filled out the requisite forms. Of them 1,172 expressed willingness to treat Covid-19 patients in government facilities. These doctors include MBBS graduates, specialists and surgeons.
In the forms, they suggested they could run their clinic in the day and work in government hospitals at night. “Some of them were above 55, so we could not use their services. Some were running their clinics and suggested they could work in both, the clinic and our hospital, and some had shut their practice,” said T P Lahane, director of Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), which had issued the order. “Every hour we are getting over 200 mails,” Lahane added.
However, of the 25,000 registered private doctors in Mumbai, two-third are yet to fill the forms. Maintaining that doctors have concerns, the Association of Medical Consultants (AMC) on May 9 had written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. “We have asked for a dedicated hospital for doctors if they catch Covid-19. They are frontline workers and need special care,” said Dr Nilima Bhamare, AMC secretary. She added that super-specialist and specialist doctors must be posted as per their specialisation and concerns of heath insurance must be addressed.
“If allopathic doctors are being roped in, then even Ayush and Ayurveda doctors should be asked to join government hospitals,” Bhamare said.
Some doctors also wish to continue their existing practice to treat only non-infected patients, claiming that if medical practitioners focus on only Covid-19 patients, others may suffer.
Lahane said a dedicating a separate hospital to treat only doctors is not on the cards. “We have to treat everyone equally. We have assured insurance and personal protective equipment to protect doctors.”
State officials said they are planning to go ahead with 1,172 doctors who are ready to work. An MBBS doctor will be paid Rs 80,000, and a specialist between Rs 1 to Rs 2 lakh for a month of service. They will also be provided accommodation and be allowed to choose the area they wish to work in. The officials added that they plan to make each doctor work for 15 days and then quarantine them for 15 days.
On Sunday, BMC and state officials began to prepare a plan of deputing doctors according to their area of preference. Doctors may be deputed in batches over the next few months to deal with the surge in cases. A parallel plan of increasing the capacity of beds is also underway. The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors has also offered to shift doctors from green zone to Mumbai.
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