Discrimination irks private doctorsUpdated: Jul 01, 2020 00:10 IST
Dr Zabir Hussain, 51, a general physician from Chembur, who also worked with government ambulance service (108) for Covid-19 patients at night, died on May 23. The sole breadwinner is survived by his wife and three teenaged children. While the family so far managed the household with Hussain’s salary of ₹27,000 for May, they now plan to return to their hometown in Uttar Pradesh.
“My father had to feed four mouths, which left him with no savings. My mother can’t work as she is illiterate. We have therefore decided to go back to our hometown,” said Adil, his 17-year-old son.
Like Hussain, 17 other private physicians have succumbed to Covid-19 infection in Maharashtra since the outbreak in March, according to data available with the Indian Medical Association (IMA). Additionally, 180 doctors have been diagnosed with Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19, and more than 1,500 physicians have been quarantined all across the state.
Members of IMA said their records do not reflect the real picture owing to poor collection of data, and the actual numbers are likely to be higher than what exists on paper.
As gatekeepers in screening Covid-19 patients, the state, under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, had directed private physicians to keep their clinics open. Doctors said, in addition to not providing them with personal protective equipment (PPE) despite being highly susceptible to the infection, the state government has not included private practitioners under Covid-19 insurance cover of ₹50 lakh.
On the eve of National Doctors’ Day, the Maharashtra chapter of IMA in an open letter stated that their decision to observe - and not celebrate - July 1 as ‘Atma-Samman Divas’ as protest against what they describe as discrimination meted out towards private doctors.
Doctors said the credit for patients’ recovery goes to the medical fraternity, especially doctors, who work round-the-clock, despite various occupational hazards. Till Monday, 1,69,883 people tested positive for Covid-19, of which 88,960 patients have recovered. .
“The government declared insurance of ₹50 lakh for every healthcare worker. Later on the policemen were included...but the private doctors’ plea of the similar insurance was ignored. Even the doctors were ready to pay the premium amount for this insurance, at the same rate by which the government will pay the premium of these healthcare workers,” reads the open letter sent by IMA on June 30. The association has also demanded to honour the deceased doctors posthumously on Independence Day.
Most families of physicians who died of Covid-19 infection that HT spoke to criticised the state for ignoring their plight.
The kin of Dr Mithkesh Rampal Singh said they are not covered under Covid-19 insurance although the general physician contracted the infection on duty and died on June 8. “While treating an asymptomatic patient in a hospital, he got exposed to the virus. In this backdrop, he should get insurance,” said Dr Vimal Singh, brother of the deceased doctor. “My brother was living with his wife in a rented flat. The insurance money could have secured his wife’s life to some extent.”