The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has asked private hospitals to take disciplinary action against nurses, doctors and Class IV workers who do not report to work. The BMC has also assured private hospitals that it will facilitate these hospitals in finding replacements for employees who are not reporting to work during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Several hospitals had reached out to BMC claiming that they were unable to run routine services of out patient department and admissions due to shortage of staff. “Since a government order makes it mandatory for hospitals to pay staff full salary during the lockdown period, several have stopped reporting to work,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali, from Bombay hospital.
He said that nurses and doctors have started coming to work, but liftmen, ward boys, and technicians, especially those attached with unions, have refused to leave home. “If we get freedom to cut their pay, they may start working,” he said.
In a video meeting with private hospitals, BMC has assured that it can provide a list of candidates available with it who can be deputed in private hospitals to replace employees not reporting to work. On April 28, BMC also issued an order to all private hospitals that it can take action under Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, if hospitals and staff do not resume normal functions immediately. Dr R B Dastur, medical director of Bhatia hospital, said that Class IV employees continue to refuse to work. “Private hospitals are in a fix, we can’t fire them for not reporting. And we can’t function normally without them.”
Shortage of health workers spans across private and public hospitals. Following issue of manpower, BMC issued a circular for its own hospitals and departments directing civic officials to ensure 100 per cent attendance. The circular issued on April 30 states that BMC staff is overburdened with work related to COVID-19 outbreak and other municipal activities, and finds it hard to work with 50 per cent staff. To ensure there is 100 per cent attendance, BMC has notified its staffers under Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, there will be salary deductions if they are absent and they will be suspended.
“Already many staffers who live in Mumbai Metropolitan Region are unable to reach office because of transportation issues. So, the idea to have 100 per cent attendance is to absorb new staff in Covid-related work and pre-monsoon preparation,” said an official from General Administration Department (GAD).
The circular states that staff from non-essential department can be utilised in contact tracing of COVID-19 patients at ward level, quarantine centre management, for upgrading municipal hospitals with extra beds and oxygen, and for de-silting of nullahs and other pre-monsoon works.
Meanwhile, BMC has asked staffers aged above 55 years and with comorbidity like hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, dialysis, to work from home for next one month. This includes staff nurses and doctors working in hospitals where COVID-19 patients are not admitted.
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