On Friday, another 19 health workers tested positive from hospitals, taking the count of affected medical staff to nearly 100 in Mumbai-likely to be the highest in India. Alarmed by the spread of infection among frontline workers, private hospitals have been asked to urgently provide safety kits, additional remuneration and transport.
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At Bhatia Hospital, under containment since Wednesday, 14 staffers, including 10 nurses, two doctors and a physiotherapist, tested positive, leading to it being sealed. Two nurses tested positive at Dadar’s Shushrusha Hospital. It has been asked to stop new admissions.
Shushrusha Hospital in Dadar has been directed to discharge all patients within 48 hours.
With major hospitals like Jaslok, Wockhardt and Bhatia shutting operations and Breach Candy running a bare minimum of services, at least 800-900 beds are currently out of circulation in south Mumbai alone. The development has led to questions about safety protocols followed in the hospitals. A civic official said with the right protocols, some infections can be avoided. “Kasturba Hospital, for instance, has not reported any infections among doctors and staffers,” he said.
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A senior management official of a private hospital said, “A few cases of infections in hospitals were expected since we are actively handling Covid-19 patients. However, the initial shortage of PPEs and bulk infections in some hospitals has made the situation messy”.
Two more nurses have tested positive in Breach Candy, which has been running emergency and ICU services with a skeletal staff after 180 of their nurses were placed under quarantine a few days ago. Among the 100 infected healthcare workers, over 60 are nurses, 10 are doctors while the remaining are technicians working in cardiac or pathology labs, and cleaners.
The 250-bed Saifee Hospital, which was among the first to face the Covid-19 scare and closure of OTs and diagnostic units, now will only be admitting coronavirus patients. In addition, a dozen other mid-level and small nursing homes across the city have shut operations after patients accidentally tested positive and their staffers had to be quarantined. The Khar Hinduja Hospital too is running minimal services after several of their staffers were placed under quarantine. Those nursing home not hit by the infection are also running to half their strength as many staffers haven’t been able to commute.
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Commenting on the situation, BMC commissioner Praveen Pardeshi said private hospitals are much needed in these times. “Some patients would prefer to go to private hospitals and many of them are doing a good job in handling Covid-19 patients,” he said, adding that in case a hospital gets infected, there are protocols of testing those and disinfecting the premises completely. “After this is done, the hospital can again start functioning,” he said.
Mumbai’s situation is intriguing when compared with several cities and even states. In Delhi, which has reported nearly 800 positive cases, 35 healthcare workers have been infected so far. In Kerala, where the country’s first Covid-19 cases showed up, one doctor with a travel history to Spain, two nurses in Kottayam and one in Ernakulam have tested positive. In Tamil Nadu, five doctors have tested positive besides a lab assistant and PG naturopathy student.
A nurse from one of the south Mumbai hospitals said a lot of the blame lies with the hospital management who were caught napping when the cases sprung up. “Despite our pleas, PPEs were reserved for those working in Covid-19 wards. Even those showing symptoms were put on shifts till they were too sick,” said the nurse. A majority of the nurses, hailing from Kerala, share apartments or hostel rooms with 8-12 others, which they believe contributed to the spread. “Most were not quarantined or tested on time,” said a member of the United Nurses Association.
At Shushrusha, where two nurses aged 27 and 42 years tested positive, the BMC directed 28 others to be quarantined. “We have advised the hospital to get all the nurses tested at their own cost privately,” said a civic official. The two nurses lived within the hospital premises. Officials said they are likely to have contracted the virus from a doctor, who had tested positive a few days ago. An 83-year-old from N C Kelkar road in Dadar who tested positive was a patient of the same doctor. Incidentally, a 59-year-old Mahim resident who was undergoing dialysis at Sushrusha hospital every alternate day also tested positive on Friday.
HCQ reaches docs, nurses
A day after TOI reported that many healthcare workers in civic-run hospitals couldn’t get their weekly Tuesday dose of the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Sion Hospital authorities said that fresh supplies had arrived on Friday. The preventive medicine is prescribed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for frontline workers against the Covid-19 infection.
(Inputs by Sujit Mahamulkar)