With at least three doctors and eight nurses testing positive for COVID-19 in south Mumbai’s Wockhardt hospital, nurses have alleged that the hospital, one of the early ones to open an isolation facility for the infected, was not swift enough in quarantining and testing exposed staffers.
The United Nurses Association wrote to the BMC and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on March 27 raising concerns. “We were informed by the nurses that when a patient tested positive, those who had come in contact with that person were not immediately quarantined and tested. The testing exercise began later on BMC’s intervention,” said Jibin TC, Maharashtra president for the association.
So far, a staffer in Jaslok hospital, a cleaner in Kasturba hospital, a cleaner in Saifee hospital, and several doctors and nurses in Wockhardt hospital have tested positive.
A 70-year-old heart patient admitted in Wockhardt hospital last week developed COVID-19 symptoms a few days after undergoing angioplasty. He had no foreign travel history or had come in contact with an infected person. “Nurses were directly exposed, so were other ICU patients. Until then, the hospital was only providing masks for nurses in the isolation facility. Those on duty in other wards were told a procurement order has been placed,” a nurse under hospital quarantine since April 1 said.
The nurse added that the hospital did not immediately quarantine all staff exposed to the patient. “Most of us travel and live together in the hostel, that is how so many nurses got exposed.” A male nurse and female nurse had tested positive last week. Another nurse said a female nurse was not tested until she was seriously ill and continued to work. She later tested positive.
In last three days, at least six nurses have tested positive in the hospital. On Thursday, a doctor attached with the hospital tested positive. The building where he stays in Dharavi has been sealed by the BMC along with three nursing homes in the area. At least 300 people had to be quarantined at home in his building. He remains admitted at Raheja hospital.
Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner in BMC, said all private hospitals have been asked to follow a standard operating protocol for COVID-19. “How they undertake prevention mechanism is not under our control. Since patients pay for treatment, private hospitals are supposed to procure masks and protective equipment on their own. BMC can only provide support if needed. We had enquired from the hospital and the authorities said they have adequate protective gear,” he added.
In a statement, the official spokesperson from Wockhardt hospital said, “We would like to place on record the fact that the first COVID-19 positive case got admitted on March 27… The statements are baseless and do not reflect the facts. We are adhering to all guidelines based on the policies of the municipal health authorities.”
“We have adopted all the safety and precautionary measures and are also providing appropriate personal protective equipment and prophylactic medications for our hospital staff,” it added.
Dr. Behram Pardiwala, attached with the hospital, said mask are currently being given to nurses. A senior official from the hospital said that all nurses are being tested after two nurses were infected. Several remain under quarantine in the hospital and in the hostel. The intensive care unit has been converted into an isolation facility. “This patient who tested positive was asymptomatic with no travel history. As soon as he tested positive, he was moved to the isolation facility,” the official added.
The United Nurses Association has demanded availability of PPE for nurses, safe transportation to and fro hospital, and protective work schedule to minimise exposure to the infected.
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