Amid COVID-19 crisis, BMC struggles to hire specialists

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As the number of COVID-19 cases is expected to rise in May, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is staring at a shortage of specialists such as nephrologists, pulmonologists, and general medicine specialists. The civic body will now have to pay hefty fees to private doctors to enlist their services or bring in available government doctors from green zones.

As per the BMC estimates, patients in Mumbai may go up to 75,000 by mid-May. Of them, while most will be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, around 3,000 are expected to turn critical. Keeping this in mind, the civic body is creating additional COVID-19 beds in hospitals. It has taken over the State-run GT Hospital and St. George Hospital for using them as isolation facilities.

But the BMC may not have adequate staff to deal with such an influx of patients.

Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner (health), said they are are providing oxygenated beds, so they will need less manpower as people admitted to COVID-19 care centres do not require a doctor round the clock.

“We are also recruiting ward boys, nurses, and doctors on a large scale. We may have to shift people internally within the BMC’s health department. The hospitals that will house critical patients like Seven Hills, Nair, St. George, and GT have been roped in along with their staff and equipment. They are self-sufficient with help from medical and nursing students. Medical colleges won’t be a problem when it comes to deployment,” Mr. Kakani said.

The BMC’s call for applications from doctors, intensivists, nurses, and dialysis technicians has received a poor response. Even though it has roped in about 200 more doctors and nurses, response is meek from specialists. The civic body will need specialists to treat patients with earlier co-morbidities or those who experience organ failure among others.

“We are facing issues in recruitment due to the lockdown and family pressure on applicants. We need nephrologists, pulmonologists, and general medicine specialists. We still appeal to them to come forward as this cannot be done by the BMC alone. We need everyone’s help and we will give them as many facilities as they need,” Mr. Kakani said.

Civic-run hospitals have even trained resident doctors, nurses, and other staff to install ventilators owing to lack of technicians.

The BMC will now have to look at other means to hire doctors. “We are contemplating several ways like giving hefty salaries or hiring on contract basis. We will have to bring in doctors from districts that do not have too many cases. But we only have control over government hospital doctors,” said another officer from the BMC’s health department.

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