Healthcare workers against revised govt guideline on quarantine, launch black ribbon protest
The revised guideline from the union health ministry on management of manpower in the hospitals was issued on May 15.Updated: May 22, 2020 12:39 IST
Healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients in government hospitals designated for the treatment of patients with coronavirus disease are protesting after being asked to vacate quarantine facilities as per the latest guideline by the Union health ministry.
Under the previous guideline, all doctors, nurses, technicians and sanitation workers in the Covid-19 wards had to work 14 days in a row and remain in quarantine for the next 14 days to ensure that they did not take the infection back home.
The revised guideline from the union health ministry on management of manpower in the hospitals issued on May 15 said that there was no need for quarantine of healthcare workers after Covid-19 duty, unless there had been a breach in the personal protective equipment or any other form of high-risk exposure.
The Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) has called for a black ribbon protest on Friday demanding proper quarantine for all healthcare workers on Covid-19 duty.
A circular from Delhi’s Lady Hardinge Medical College issued on Thursday states, “Hotel facility during post-duty period in Covid-19 and suspected Covid-19 zones provided to healthcare workers is hereby withdrawn and the occupants are directed to please vacate their rooms immediately. If any overstay is noticed, charges paid for the overstay will have to be recovered from their salaries.”
The accommodation will be available to those still on Covid-19 duties at the hospital.
“This is happening across the designated Covid-19 hospitals after the union health ministry guidelines were issued. The problem, however, is that even if someone is asymptomatic, they might pass on the infection to their hostel-mates or family members. We have seen in some cases staff testing positive during the second round of testing between day 11 to 14,” said Dr Sunil Dhuchania, president of the resident doctors’ association of the hospital.
A similar notice was issued to the healthcare workers from Lok Nayak hospital, the biggest Covid-19 treatment facility in Delhi with 2,500 beds. “In an order yesterday, those in quarantine were asked to vacate the hotels or dharmashala rooms by Thursday noon. However, we had a meeting with the medical director and they have been given a week’s time to vacate the facility,” said Dr Parv Mittal, president of the RDA at Lok Nayak hospital.
For future batches of healthcare workers, the hospital will make arrangements for those working in high-risk areas such as the intensive care unit has to follow the quarantine protocol. “Although the directions from the ministry and Delhi government is to provide quarantine only to those considered to have been high-risk contacts during their duty by the hospital infection control committee, we will be making arrangements for those working in ICUs to still continue the quarantine,” said a senior official from the hospital administration, on condition of anonymity.
A similar compromise was worked out by the doctors at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital in Delhi.
“An extension has been provided for the current batch of people who finished their duty in mid-May. After that, we are in talks with the medical superintendent to at least provide quarantine for seven days so that the healthcare workers do not take back the infection to their elderly parents or young children,” said Dr Ekta Yadav, president of the RDA at RML hospital.
“However, we are hoping that the health ministry takes back these guidelines by the time the next shift ends,” she said.
Doctors at Safdarjung hospital have negotiated a five-day quarantine for healthcare workers in the Covid-19 wards, so that they can be tested once before they go back home.
“At the hospital level, our medical superintendent has allowed five-day quarantine for healthcare workers from the Covid-19 wards, so they can stay in the hotel till they are tested once,” said Dr Manish Kumar, president of the RDA of Safdarjung hospital.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which caters to the second-highest number of Covid-19 patients, is following the health ministry guidelines and is providing quarantine to only those who are recommended by the hospital infection control committee. The dharamshalas of the hospital, which are used by the relatives of the patients usually, were being provided to the healthcare workers from the hospital.
“We are following the health ministry guidelines,” said Dr DK Sharma, medical superintendent of the hospital.
The guidelines define “high risk exposure” as a healthcare worker treating Covid-19 patient or handling their samples without proper personal protective equipment (PPE) or probable breach of the PPE. It will also be required if a healthcare worker is in contact with a positive person at a distance of less than 1 metre for more than 15 minutes without masks, face-shields or goggles.