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Mumbai: Hospital staffer tests positive for coronavirus, others point to discrimination

The female cleaner who tested positive is in her thirties. The Titwala resident had to sleep in ward 13, meant for children suffering from other illnesses, for three days because she could not go home.

Hospital staffers have complained of discrimination claiming that doctors and nurses get N-95 masks and proper protective gear while cleaners are given an inferior quality knee-length gown and 2-ply or 3-ply mask. (Representational/Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

A cleaner at Kasturba hospital tested positive for COVID-19 becoming the first healthcare worker from a government hospital in the city to catch the infection while caring for coronavirus patients. Kasturba Hospital remains the nodal centre for admitting COVID-19 cases and testing in Mumbai.

Hospital staffers have complained of discrimination claiming that doctors and nurses get N-95 masks and proper protective gear while cleaners are given an inferior quality knee-length gown and 2-ply or 3-ply mask. “Every time we ask for a mask, we are handed a 3-ply mask. The gown tears easily and does not even cover the entire body. Our legs remain exposed. The doctors and nurses are given two piece suit as protective gear,” a cleaner said.

The female cleaner who tested positive is in her thirties. The Titwala resident had to sleep in ward 13, meant for children suffering from other illnesses, for three days because she could not go home. When she developed cough and cold, her nasal swab was taken. On Tuesday she was shifted to a side room in female ward after she tested positive. Close contacts of the cleaner have been quarantined.

Explained | Rate of COVID-19 spread in India, world

Her husband, who works in the dairy industry, son and daughter are currently in their native village. “We last received training on infection control during H1N1 outbreak. It is scary to handle dead bodies,” a hospital staffer said, adding that they are made to do double shifts for 16 hours due to the outbreak. “I fell ill for the last two days and could not come. They said my salary will be deducted. But for extra shift we are not given any extra money,” he said.

Another staffer said they are scared to go home to their family from the hospital. “If we get protective gear like doctors even we would feel reassured,” he said.

The hospital’s superintendent Dr Chandrakant Pawar did not respond to calls. The state health department said they have not been notified about the case yet.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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