Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 1
Lakhs of doctors continue to risk their lives daily to stand between people and the Covid-19 infection.
Since the first reported case of the virus on January 30, at least 70 Indian doctors are feared dead on the frontlines of the Covid-19 battlefield where health care workers are at highest risk.
Community health experts say the government must urgently launch infection control audits across hospitals to determine the scale of dangers the health care workers face during the pandemic.
“It is perhaps no coincidence that 2020 is Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the World Health Day theme. Health care workers, including doctors, have faced the greatest risks in the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 2,000 health care workers have tested positive for Covid-19 in Delhi alone. An earlier ICMR report found 1,073 positive cases among health care workers till May 23. It’s time the government analysed data of infections and deaths among health care workers and conducted infection control audits,” Rajib Dasgupta of JNU’s Community Health Department says.
Going by the global experience, Covid infection rate in health care workers is at least 1 per cent. The last reported Covid death of an Indian doctor was as recently as Sunday. Dr Sayeed Ahmad Ali tested positive on June 8 and died of lung collapse at a Noida hospital. Last week, 52-year-old Aseem Gupta, an anaesthetist at Delhi’s LNJP Hospital, died of the virus in the line of duty. His wife, also Covid positive, survived. Delhi alone has seen at least four serving doctors die of Covid.
Delhi Medical Council (DMC) has now issued an advisory to all members to treat every patient they see as Covid positive.
“Doctors in non-Covid facilities are the most vulnerable. We have asked doctors to treat every patient as Covid positive and maintain the highest level of precaution at all times. At least 70 Indian doctors have died of Covid so far. This could well be an undercount,” DMC Registrar Girish Tyagi says.
Another challenge for doctors is the availability of personal protective equipment. Even AIIMS New Delhi has lost frontline staff to Covid. Former president of AIIMS Resident Doctors Association AS Malhi says the institute has adequate PPEs but that’s not the case in all hospitals.
“This Doctor’s Day, we appeal to the Centre to ensure PPE stocks at each hospital and clinic,” says Malhi in a grim reminder of a Delhi mohalla clinic doctor UK Ghosh and his wife both succumbing to Covid-19 recently.