Coronavirus: Junior docs at Safdarjung get masks after threatening to strike work

By, New Delhi
Mar 04, 2020 11:40 PM IST

A shortage of face masks led doctors at Safdarjung Hospital, one of the two nodal centres in Delhi for isolating patients who have been infected by or show symptoms of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), to send a midnight missive to the medical superintendent, threatening to boycott work.

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Resident doctors said they would not treat patients at the hospital’s out-patient clinics and emergency ward late on Tuesday night after a 45-year-old man from Mayur Vihar and six of his family members in Agra who tested positive for Covid-19 were moved to Safdarjung Hospital on Monday and Tuesday.

The seven members of the family and 21 others are admitted to the two-floor isolation facility at the hospital.

Seventeen of those admitted have tested negative and test reports on four others were awaited.

“In the wake of a possible novel coronavirus outbreak in the city, I want to draw your attention to the fact that resident doctors are working without any mask. Ideally, good quality protective equipment like N95 masks should be used but not even routine masks are available. Sir, we have arranged for temporary relief for a few hours. Kindly arrange N95 masks on most urgent basis,” wrote Dr Manish Kumar, president of the Resident Doctors Association of the hospital, in a letter to the hospital administration late Tuesday night.

By Wednesday morning, N95 masks for those working in the emergency department and cloth masks for those working in other places reached the hospital.

“Anybody can walk into the emergency department. What if they are infected? Doctors and other staff members working in the emergency department at least should get proper N95 masks; otherwise they will be at a high risk of getting the disease,” a doctor at the hospital said on condition of anonymity.

Safdarjung Hospital authorities refused to comment on the matter.

At Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, the other nodal centre in the city, doctors said they had received the masks.

“We were all give N95 masks a few days ago when the first suspected cases were reported in the city,” a doctor at the hospital said on condition of anonymity.

Healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients should use gowns, gloves, medical masks, and eye protection because they have to touch and stay close to the patient, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Medical masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles should be used by staff physically examining any patient with respiratory symptoms.

At the community level, people with respiratory symptoms and those caring for Covid-19 patients need medical masks. Healthy people should not use masks of any kind, the WHO guidelines state.

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    Anonna Dutt is a health reporter at Hindustan Times. She reports on Delhi government’s health policies, hospitals in Delhi, and health-related feature stories.

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