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Jharkhand removes quarantine rule for vaccinated health workers

Currently, healthcare workers at facilities with higher caseload are quarantined after a week of duty, while others in Covid facilities with lesser number of cases are quarantined for a week after 15 days of duty.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Ranchi |
Updated: May 20, 2021 5:34:10 am
The ICU at the third floor of Ranchi’s Sadar Hospital. (Express Photo)

A CHANGE in quarantine policy in Jharkhand for frontline healthcare workers on Covid duty – who have taken both doses of vaccine – has led to murmurs of discontent and angst among them, with many saying it has come as a setback to their morale.

Currently, the healthcare workers are quarantined for seven days after working in a Covid ward at least for a week. While those at facilities with higher caseload are quarantined after a week of duty, others in Covid facilities with lesser number of cases are quarantined for a week after 15 days of duty.

According to the latest policy change by the state health department, there will be no quarantine for healthcare workers who have taken both doses of the vaccine. Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Arun Singh, who issued a letter on May 13 informing all Deputy Commissioners about the change in quarantine policy, told The Indian Express: “Other states too have doctors and Odisha too has changed it. I have changed the quarantining policy like other states.”

In his May 13 letter, Singh said, “There is no need to place fully vaccinated — two weeks after second dose — service providers to quarantine after a stint of duty… however, they should be tested for Covid after completion of that period. The deployed staff will continue to work with the usual day off as per rules.”

Ranchi’s Sadar Hospital Deputy Superintendent Sabyasachi Mandal said the move will impact the morale of the healthcare workers, specially in facilities with low manpower. “Unlike RIMS [Jharkhand’s biggest government hospital], where there are multiple groups [of doctors, nurses and other staff], Sadar Hospital has only two healthcare worker groups. Let us hope we find a solution,” he said.

Two days ago, the district administration held a meeting with doctors at Sadar Hospital, informing them about the policy change.

At least 10 healthcare workers The Indian Express spoke to gave examples of those who died, despite both doses of vaccination, to argue their case on the risk of prolonged exposure to the virus. The examples included the case of prominent cardiologist Dr K K Aggarwal, who died on on May 17.

They also said the long and intensive duty hours at Covid facilities take a toll on their bodies. A 28-year-old nurse said she has been working in a Covid ICU since the beginning of April on a seven-day rotation policy. “At the end of a week we are completely weak and it takes another week to recharge ourselves. This order has broken us morally,” she said.

A doctor said the time spent in the Covid care is stressful. “Our mental health has taken a hit after intubating patients and giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation then seeing deaths… We need relief.” According to the doctor, if at all the quarantine rule goes, they should be put in non-Covid wards and the reserve batch of doctors should be put on Covid duty.

According to the new policy, there will be “no need to keep a full reserve batch to replace the deployed batch as per the old quarantine policy”. After the letter was issued, Ranchi district administration moved a reserve batch of 18 doctors to various primary and community health centres in the district. The administration said it was required to send them to rural areas in view of the rising Covid cases.

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