Mumbai hospitals face staff crunch as doctors, nurses are Covid positive

Published on Jan 05, 2022 11:26 PM IST
Mumbai: With the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai, city hospitals are faced with a shortage of staff as several doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers across public and private facilities have been infected with the coronavirus
City hospitals face staff crunch as doctors, nurses are Covid positive (HT File)
City hospitals face staff crunch as doctors, nurses are Covid positive (HT File)

Mumbai: With the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai, city hospitals are faced with a shortage of staff as several doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers across public and private facilities have been infected with the coronavirus. Hospitals are reporting a staff shortage of anywhere between 5% to 30%.

Healthcare workers are experiencing breakthrough infections (infection which occurs after being fully vaccinated) and re-infections, which has led several private hospitals to hire doctors and nurses on a temporary basis.

On Wednesday, Bandra’s Lilavati Hospital reported a 30% shortage of nursing staff and doctors due to Covid. “Some of them are admitted with us with moderate symptoms, while others are isolating at home,” said Dr V Ravishankar, chief executive officer of the hospital that has a staff strength of 550 doctors and 300 nurses. “I have started hiring doctors and nurses on a temporary basis to ensure smooth functioning,” he said.

At Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central, at least 30 of their staff are currently Covid positive, including 17 doctors and nurses — 5% of the 350-odd nurses and doctors.

Data shared by the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) showed that as of Wednesday, 265 residents were down with Covid-19 in public hospitals including 73 in JJ hospital, Byculla, 80 in Lokmanya Tilak Medical General (LTMG) hospital, Sion, 60 in KEM, Parel, 45 in BYL Nair, Mumbai Central and seven in Cooper hospital, Vile Parle. “This is a drastic increase since January 3, when we counted 70 infections,” said MARD president Dr Avinash Dahiphale. “None of the doctors have a serious disease. Most of them and in mild to moderate category,” he said.

In addition to the resident doctors, many faculty members in these hospitals are also infected. The JJ Hospital, for instance, has nearly 100 infected staff, including 21 faculty members and other hospital workers besides the residents mentioned above. The hospital’s dean Dr Ranjit Mankeshwar is also infected with the virus and is currently admitted at St George’s Hospital.

In LTMG hospital, four faculty members besides the resident doctors mentioned above are infected with Covid. “A few nurses are also infected,” said the hospital’s dean Dr Mohan Joshi, adding the workload is manageable at the moment due to the shorter isolation period and less severity of the infections. However, the situation may become difficult as hospitalisations increase, the dean said.

Covid bed occupancy in Mumbai’s public and private hospitals (including jumbo centres) has seen a jump since December 20, when it was 6.25% (the number of Covid beds at the time were 13,830) to 23% on January 5 (the number of beds currently stand at 22,098).

This has also led to some concern about the delay that at least a fraction of healthcare workers will face in receiving their booster dose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 26 had announced that all healthcare workers will receive “precaution doses” — or booster shots — starting on January 10. According to a mandate issued by the Centre itself, there should be at least a three month’s gap between recovery from the infection and vaccination.

“It would have been ideal if booster doses were started for healthcare workers a couple of months back. It may have prevented the widespread infections to a certain extent though with Omicron in circulation [this remains to be seen],” internal medicine specialist Dr Anita Mathew from Fortis Hospital.

“Many of the healthcare workers will not be able to take the booster shots immediately due to recent infections,” said Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean of BYL Nair Hospital. the government is yet to give detailed guidelines on booster shots.

On December 31, additional chief secretary Pradeep Vyas issued guidelines stating that the isolation period for healthcare workers and other staff could be reduced to five days from the earlier seven-day mandate, considering the Omicron variant may infect large numbers in a short time and there will be need of trained staff to be available.

“We are following the 5-day isolation protocol for all staff and most turn negative within that period,” said Dr Parag Rindani, chief executive officer of Wockhardt Hospital.

Hospital authorities said that healthcare workers have been testing positive routinely, but they began seeing a higher number of infections starting the last week of December.

“Healthcare workers are in the frontline are bound to have more infections as we are in a middle of a wave driven by a highly transmissible variant,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the Covid-19 task force. “It is important for hospitals to wait for a negative RTPCR before calling the doctors back on duty,” he said.

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