Resident doctors working in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run hospitals have criticised the civic body’s latest circular which allows doctors to take only one-day leave after working in a Covid ward before resuming work. Doctors claimed the one-day quarantine period is too short and leaves people who interact with them susceptible to infection.
On September 7, BMC issued a circular asking doctors to work in Covid ward, take a day off and then resume duty in non-Covid wards. In KEM and Sion hospital, doctors are working on 10-day duty before they get one-day off. In Nair hospital, doctors are allowed to work for seven days and then get a day off.
In the past BMC has changed its quarantine norms for doctors on multiple occasions. In March, doctors were allowed seven-day work followed by seven-day off as quarantine period. That was changed to five-day work and two-day quarantine in June, then to nine-day work and six days of quarantine the same month on advice of the state medical education department. BMC then switched to 10 days working and three day quarantine. This month the three day quarantine period was cut short to one day.
At least 147 resident doctors in KEM, 124 in Sion and 110 in Nair hospital have tested positive for Covid-19 till now.
A 29-year-old resident doctor in Sion hospital’s pharmacology department tested positive last week after she was forced to rejoin work despite symptoms. The resident doctor was posted in BKC Covid facility. “I had cough, and acute body pain. I was allowed only three day leave because of symptoms and was forced to join back in BKC centre despite weakness,” she said. She worked for two days and developed fever. A Covid-19 test came positive and she had to be moved to Seven Hills hospital for treatment. Now in home isolation, and still weak, she said, “The quarantine period is too short. For two days I worked with my colleagues putting them at risk of exposure.”
In KEM hospital, a third year resident doctor from the medicine department said they have been unofficially informed to work without a day’s break for next one month. “The routine OPDs have started, other departments are diverting their doctors from Covid wards to those OPDs. Medicine department doctors are getting overworked and have no time to take breaks even after 10 days,” he said.
Another resident doctor from KEM hospital said the incubation period for coronavirus is 4-7 days and at least that much period is required to observe oneself for symptoms. “When we switch from Covid duty to non-Covid duty after just a day off, we also put general patients at risk,” he said.
In Nair hospital, last week a resident doctor from the gynaecology department tested positive for Covid-19 and infected her batchmate. She got only a day’s quarantine, and developed symptoms two-three days after resuming duty. She was working in close contact with the second batchmate who tested positive days after her.
Civic officials said as hospitals attempt to restart non-Covid routine procedures, they will need more doctors on call to handle the increased load. Currently BMC-run hospitals are catering to monsoon related ailment patients, Covid patients and routine OPD cases.
Nurses are allowed to take a day off after seven day work, but a nurse from BYL Nair hospital said sometimes they are asked to work for 15 days at stretch before a leave is permitted.
Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said since doctors are provided personal protective equipment there is adequate precaution against coronavirus. “Earlier we did not know much about the infection so we allowed seven day work and seven day quarantine. Now that we know how to protect against it, we have reduced the quarantine period,” he said.
But data collected by KEM resident doctors shows maximum cases of infection amongst resident doctors came up in September when their quarantine period was reduced. On September 11, three residents, on September 14 two and on September 18 six residents tested positive for Covid-19. “Earlier we had one or two testing positive in a gap of several days. Now doctors are infecting each other because there is limited self quarantine,” a doctor from Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors said.
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