As many as 1,223 health workers, including nurses who were waiting for appointment, nursing students, MBBS students and interns, have started working in BMC hospitals handling COVID-19 cases.
Of the fresh appointments, BMC processed pending appointments of 670 qualified nurses. BMC Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi said these nurses were awaiting appointment because of fund crunch. “We have given them immediate appointment,” he said on Friday. BMC officials said at least 135 of them joined duty on Thursday.
Apart from appointment of nurses, at least 1,709 resident doctors have been trained in use of ventilators. They have been deputed in hospitals, fever clinics and fever outpatient departments to handle both suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“All deans of four medical colleges came together and formulated a course structure for students. We taught them about personal safety, patient management and coronavirus treatment protocol based on ICMR’s guidelines,” said N Ramaswamy, who managed training of students.
The nursing students, interns and medical students were given a day-long training at BMC’s training centre in Borivali. At least 300 second-year nursing students, 213 interns, 40 fifth-year MBBS students and 1,709 resident doctors have been deputed in KEM, Sion, Nair and Dr RN Cooper hospital.
Dr Amrut Bang, from NGO Nirman in Gadchiroli, said there are 2,900 MBBS doctors who graduated this year in Maharashtra. “If their compulsory bond after graduation is implemented, they could be useful in treating patients. We need doctors in the entire healthcare system in rural hospitals, primary health centres and civil hospitals. We have suggested to the health minister to enforce the bond system,” Bang said.
While nursing and medical students have been roped in to treat coronavirus patients, concerns have been raised by health experts over their lack of experience and risk of exposure. Dr Swati Rane of Clinical Nursing Research Society of India has demanded a special task force to deal with problems faced by nurses in civic-run hospitals, during a webinar event organised by Loksatta on Friday.
Rane said norms mandate that students should be assigned work in non-COVID-19 hospitals. “Despite the norms BMC pressured about 150 students to work in various COVID-19 hospitals. They are exposed to the virus. Now at least six such students have tested positive for coronavirus and admitted in Seven Hills hospital,” she said. She added that many nurses working in general wards are contracting the virus because the patient admitted shows symptoms at a later stage. “This has caused a lot of problems since they don’t have safety kits,” Rane said. She also pointed out that BMC was not sharing data on how many nurses in civic hospitals have contracted the virus.
There are about 5,000 nurses working in civic-run hospitals. In Mumbai, there have been several complaints from these nurses, who are frontline workers, about lack of safety kits, safety concerns and being overburdened. Nurses have also alleged that rather than addressing their issues the hospital management pressure them to work in the same conditions.
Pardeshi promised he will set up a task force to look at nursing staff’s problems separately. He assured that nursing students will be moved to quarantine facilities or asked to look after non-COVID-19 patients.
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