Four workers at Mumbai tuberculosis hospital infected, staff plans cough protest
The recent diagnosis has put the total number of employees receiving treatment for TB and on medical leave at 20 this year.mumbai Updated: Nov 23, 2016 01:09 IST
Four more staff members of Group of Tuberculosis Hospital, Sewri, have been diagnosed with different strains of tuberculosis in the past six weeks. The recent diagnosis has put the total number of employees receiving treatment for TB and on medical leave at 20 this year. About 55 health workers have already died of TB at the hospital since 2005.
Sources said the health workers, who were recently diagnosed with the infection, are still in probation period and hence not eligible for paid leaves. “All four employees are in their mid 20s and joined the civic body in 2013-14 after the 2012 recruitment. According to the norms, workers in the probation period for three years aren’t eligible for paid leaves,” said an official from the hospital. He added that if the leave extends 90 days, services of the employee will be terminated.
Apart from the probation workers who work as ward attendants, one doctor, three nurses, 10 class four employees (sweepers or ward boys) and two clerks are on medical leave for treatment. The infected workers have to follow a 24-month treatment schedule as prescribed for the disease.
Dr Jagdish Keni, medical superintendent at the hospital said they are working on a plan to give special leave to the four employees. “Two of them are diagnosed with multi-drug resistant TB and two are with pulmonary TB. We are in the process of making an exception for them,” said Keni.
Members of Municipal Majdoor Union (MMU), a workers’ association which is campaigning for better facilities for the sick staff members, said they will insist that the workers get the salaries and approved leave for treatment. “The employees are young and single and their families are traumatised due to the incident. Moreover, the civic body, instead of extending help, isn’t even paying their salaries, let alone offering the treatment cost,” said Pradeeep Narkar, president of MMU.
Narkar added that former municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte had proposed that health workers at the Sewri hospital should get medical leave, just like maternal leave. “While the proposal was about to be passed, one municipal corporator suggested that the facility should be given to all BMC employees and not just the health workers. However, after Kunte was replaced, the new commissioner is yet to sign the proposal,” said Narkar.
A health worker from the hospital said the problem occurs mainly due to absence of N95 masks, which are not available most of the time. They also said Rs1,500, which is given to the health workers on medical leave as risk allowance, has not been paid to a single health worker diagnosed with TB. “An equal number of ward boys and other members of staff,like nurses, and all of us work in the same infected environment; shouldn’t everybody be treated as equals?” asked a ward boy.
MMU has decided to protest in the form of ‘Khokala Andolan’ (cough protest) on three days on December 28-30. Staff from the hospital is planning to gather outside the office of medical superintendent and cough in unison to draw attention to the problem.