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Doctors protest working conditions at ESI hospital

PUBLISHED ON JUN 22, 2020 10:57 PM IST

Between Sunday night and Monday morning, the doctor on duty at the emergency ward of the 200-bed ESI Hospital in northwest Delhi’s Rohini Sector 15 attended patients outside in the open compound. The senior resident had set up his desk, chair and a bed outside the emergency wing, even as it rained, as a mark of protest against the inadequate facilities at the hospital, including a non-functional air conditioning system and unhygienic conditions in the duty room.

Doctors in the emergency wing, which receives at least 70-80 patients throughout the day, say it is unbearable to sit in the stuffy room in hot and humid conditions for 13-14 hours with the personal protective equipment (PPE) coveralls on. They have been working in such conditions for almost three months now.

The hospital is not a dedicated Covid-19 facility but has two isolation wards for suspected and stable cases to observe and test them. If patients test positive or develop any kind of complication, they are referred to Covid-19 hospitals or other Covid-19 care facilities depending on the case.

“I moved my workstation outside when I could no longer breathe properly inside the room. Doctors on duty can fall unconscious in such circumstances. Besides attending to emergency patients and taking rounds, we are required to check on patients in Covid-19 isolation wards. We have to make notes, take samples, make files and discharge reports of patients sitting in the duty room, which has no ventilation and is poorly kept,” Dr Shashank Srivastava, who sat outside through the night until his shift got over at 9.30am on Monday, said.

Even as it rained heavily in the morning, Srivastava saw 8-10 patients. “I made sure they stood under the roof and I checked them right outside the emergency entry. Two of them came with Covid-like symptoms. Only after that the hospital administration asked me to move inside and assured me they’d look into the issues,” Srivastava said.

Another senior resident doctor, who did not wish to be named, said that since April, they have been requesting the hospital administration to at least fix the air-conditioner but to no avail. “It is just not humanly possible to wear the PPE kit for so long and sit in that room without falling sick. Also, there is a staff crunch and work hours tend to get stretched. Having proper ventilation and clean surroundings is the least we could ask for,” he said.

Against the sanctioned strength of 8-9 senior residents to be posted in the emergency wing, only three doctors are there at present, the doctor quoted above said. “There were five doctors until earlier this month, after which two moved out to join services elsewhere. Now, there are only three of us, while there are no junior residents,” he said.

The doctors said they will continue to work outside if their issues are not addressed at the earliest.

According to officials in the hospital administration, the medical superintendent met emergency doctors on Monday morning and assured them they would address the issues at the soonest.

However, the medical superintendent did not respond for comment despite repeated calls and texts.

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