Gurugram: 125 health workers infected with Covid-19 since March, shows dataUpdated: Sep 18, 2020, 23:48 IST
At least 125 health workers in the district, including accredited social health activist(ASHA) workers, doctors, lab technicians and sanitation staff, have tested positive for Covid-19 since the outbreak began in March, as per information shared by the district health department. Of these, two medical officers are currently in home isolation after testing positive for the virus earlier this week.
While 125 cases may seem like a small fraction of Gurugram’s 17,065 reported infections, officials pointed out that they make up over six percent of the health department’s total staff, comprising approximately 2,000 people (including permanent and contractual staff members and outsourced workers).
“This shows how susceptible front-line workers are to infection. For a health care worker, the risk of infection is essentially doubled. It also becomes extremely challenging when someone directly involved in the Covid-19 response is put under isolation, as their immediate peer or next in command will have to make up for his or her absence. Someone or the other in the department is usually doing work for another who has tested positive,” said Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer (CMO), Gurugram.
A medical officer with the health department who had tested positive for Covid-19 in June, requesting anonymity, said, “The real number may be higher because health workers are not being tested across the board. These 125 cases are those who either had primary contact with a Covid-19 patient, or showed mild symptoms. While contact tracing and testing of family members and colleagues happen when a health care worker tests positive, we would find more asymptomatic cases if we increased testing within the department. That would be the best option, if you want to give more protection to health care workers. However, we can’t use all the test kits for ourselves.”
Senior officials added that these 125 cases have been recorded across various positions in the health staff. “I cannot give the category wise data offhand, but a more or less equal number of infections have been reported across nursing orderlies, rapid response team members, clerical and administrative staff and field staff,” said Dr Jai Prakash Sharma, district surveillance officer, Gurugram. Interestingly, he added, most cases within the department are not people who are directly involved in the Covid-19 response, as they are taking proper precautions and have been adequately trained in use of PPE. “We have 67 dedicated Covid-staff of whom less than 10 have tested positive,” Sharma said.
Rajesh Kumar, an epidemiologist and former professor of community medicine at PGIMER, Chandigarh, noted, “Health care workers run the risk of occupational exposure and infection from unknown sources in their work surroundings. While a lab technician collecting samples at a primary health centre may be better protected, a sanitation worker working without PPE in the same vicinity may face a higher chance of infection. And with the spread of the virus picking up within the community, health care workers in OPDs and flu clinics are also at an elevated risk of getting Covid-19.”
These 125 cases, however, do not include infected healthworkers in the private sector. Spokespersons of at least five private hospitals on Friday declined to reveal any data in this regard, though two of them confirmed that cases of health care workers being infected have been, and continue to be, reported. A spokesperson of a private hospital in Sector 44, said, requesting anonymity, “I am not at liberty to provide data, but I can confirm that most Covid-19 cases within the staff have been reported not from Covid-19 wards but from other departments. Cases are also high among general housekeeping staff.”