New Delhi: Of the over 6,000 COVID-19 positive cases in Delhi, about 5% are health workers – including doctors and nurses – who contracted the novel coronavirus while treating patients.
But despite the spread of the virus being so high among health care professionals, the protocols in place are still not perfect and there have been complaints about a lack of proper facilities and equipment – not only at hospitals but also at quarantine centres.
One such incident came to light on Saturday evening, when three healthcare workers of BR Ambedkar Hospital in Rohini tested positive for COVID-19 and were put in a quarantine centre without proper food, water or toilet facilities.
The health care workers – two women and a man, with their masks on – put up a video on social media to show the inadequacy of the quarantine facility. They also say that it was the lack of proper equipment at their hospital that had caused them to contract coronavirus.
Trauma and panic
The video begins with one on the women stating that the three of them work at a Delhi government run hospital. On the verge of breaking down, she says that “while taking care of the corona positive patients, we have ourselves contracted the virus.”
She then pans the camera to show the hall where they’re supposed to stay at, saying, “See what a brilliant facility has been provided to us. There is no facility for water here, none for food and neither is there a toilet. There is nothing.”
She then introduces two other staff members who have also tested positive for COVID-19, and continues sarcastically: “See, we are getting excellent facility here. We are getting our great reward for taking care of COVID-19 patient. We are now ourselves positive. We don’t know what will happen to our family now. If we are getting such great facilities, then they would get one only better.”
No food, water for health care staff till several hours after admission
Thereafter, the male staff member says: “It has been four-five hours, but not one has even asked us for water or food. It is past 9 pm, but there is no arrangement for food here.” He goes on to state that patients from outside were also coming in and no arrangement had been made to lodge the health care workers separately.
The second woman health worker then adds that there are other patients and that the positive hospital staff are being made to stay with them. “Our condition can get worse. Moreover no one is giving us food or water.”
The Wire later spoke to Dharminder, a nursing brother, who was the male health worker that figured in the video. He said that after midnight, the three of them were shifted to a proper ward at the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute in Rohini.
Speaking to The Wire on Sunday afternoon, he said: “We were later provided food and water. Our second sample test was also done. The doctors attended to us today and we were also served breakfast and lunch.”
Dharminder also clarified that the three of them are the only health workers of BR Ambedkar Hospital to be undergoing treatment at the facility as of now.
Around 300 health care workers have tested COVID positive
Incidentally, BR Ambedkar Hospital was the first hospital in Delhi to show a major instance of cluster infection among medical workers last month when 40 health workers tested positive for COVID-19 there. There was a cluster infection later in April at Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital near Delhi Gate – a dedicated government hospital for COVID-19 patients – when 21 health workers tested positive. This included four doctors and 10 nurses.
By the end of April, over 230 health workers had tested positive across the national capital. This month, the figure has gone up. Only a couple of days ago, 10 health care workers of North Delhi Municipal Corporation run Hindu Rao Hospital and five of Kasturba Hospital tested positive for coronavirus. Following their testing positive, contact tracing was done and they were sent for quarantine.
Earlier 46 other personnel, who were sent on home quarantine, had recovered in the north corporation area.
Many instances of cluster spread among healthcare workers
Apart from BR Ambedkar and LNJP Hospital, the other hospitals that have reported high incidence of staff contracting the virus includes Delhi government-run 100-bed Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial hospital in Jahangirpuri where around 65 health care workers – including doctors, nurses, sanitation workers and hospital security staff – tested positive.
Even in private hospitals, a number of health workers have taken ill. As many as 33 of them were reported positive at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Patparganj – despite it not being a COVID-19 designated hospital – and this included two doctors.
A health care worker at BR Ambedkar Hospital, who did not wish to be identified, said: “It is understandable that some of us would contract the coronavirus as we work closely with the patients. But what we expect from the government and the health authorities is that they should provide an atmosphere for quarantine facility and treatment wherein we feel wanted, cared for and confident about our recovery.”