New Delhi: In a letter dated September 16, the Indian Medical Association has accused Union Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan of acknowledging the contribution of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic while not saying a word about the medical professionals who died due to COVID-19. The IMA has also pointed out Union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s statement made in parliament on September 15 that ‘the Union government does not have any compensation data as public health and hospitals come under the states’. The IMA in its letter has accused the government of ‘indifference’, ‘abdication’ and ‘abandonment of national heroes’.
The indifference to the sacrifice of doctors and healthcare workers is the reality of COVID-19. It appears that they are dispensable. No nation has lost as many doctors and healthcare workers like India. Doctor suffers four times mortality of ordinary citizens and private practitioners suffer eight times mortality on the same scale. To feign this information doesn’t merit the attention of the nation is abominable, read the IMA statement.
According to IMA, if the government doesn’t maintain the statistics of the total number of doctors and healthcare workers infected by COVID-19 and the statistics of how many of them sacrificed their life due to the pandemic, it loses the moral authority to administer the Epidemic Act 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Under the Epidemic Act 1897, the Central government as well as state government, have the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations to prevent the spread of a dangerous epidemic disease. Under the Disaster Management Act 2005, governments get access to appropriate funds in order to respond and provide immediate relief to victims.
The IMA also called government hypocrite as on one hand it gives the title of ‘corona warriors’ to health professionals and on the other hand, it denies them and their families the status of martyrdom.
In response to ministers’ statements, IMA released a list of 382 doctors who died of COVID-19 and demanded that they should be treated as martyrs and family should be given compensation. Drawing the analogy between the role of soldiers and doctors and healthcare workers, IMA said,
While the brave soldiers on the borders countenance the enemy they do so with enormous risk to their personal self. Yet none of them bring home the bullets to be shared with their families. On the contrary, the doctors and healthcare workers not only get infected in the line of their national duty but also bring home the infection to their families including children.
As per the list of doctors, the nation lost due to COVID-19, prepared by IMA, the youngest doctor to die of COVID was a 24-year-old from Haryana and the oldest was an 86-year-old from Tamil Nadu. Four of the 382 doctors who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty and dies were under 30 years of age.
Five states with the highest number of doctors that died of COVID-19 are Tamil Nadu (lost 63 doctors), Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka lost 42 doctors each, Gujarat (39) and in Maharashtra, 36 doctors lost their lives while trying to cure COVID-19 patients.
IMA finds it strange that after having formulated an unfriendly partial insurance scheme for the bereaved families to struggle with the ignominy of the Government disowning them altogether stares at them, the statement read.
In March, the Union Health Ministry had announced that 22.12 lakh public healthcare providers, including community health workers, will get ₹ 50 lakh insurance cover under a national scheme.
Keep Health Workers Safe To Keep Patients Safe, Says The World Health Organisation
On September 17, on the occasion of World Patient Safety Day, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, made an appeal to the government to protect health workers in order to keep patients safe. Dr Tedross highlighted the mounting reports of infections, illness and attacks among health workers fighting COVID-19 and said,
While health workers represent less than 3 per cent of the population in the large majority of countries and less than 2 per cent in almost all low- and middle-income countries, around 14 per cent of COVID-19 cases reported to WHO are among health workers. In some countries, the proportion can be as high as 35 per cent. However, data availability and quality are limited, and it is not possible to establish whether health workers were infected in the workplace or in community settings. Thousands of health workers infected with COVID-19 have lost their lives worldwide.
“Globally, around 14% of #COVID19 cases reported to WHO are among #healthworkers, and in some countries it’s as much as 35%, although data are limited and it’s hard to know whether health workers are infected in their workplaces or communities”-@DrTedros #WorldPatientSafetyDay
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) September 17, 2020
WHO also mentioned about the extraordinary levels of psychological stress on health workers exposed to high-demand settings for long hours, living in constant fear of disease exposure while separated from family and facing social stigmatisation.
According to a systematic review and meta-analysis of ‘Prevalence of depression, anxiety, and insomnia among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic’, one in four reported depression and anxiety, and one in three suffered insomnia during COVID-19.
The WHO recommends five steps to improve health worker safety and patient safety:
1. Establish synergies between health worker safety and patient safety policies and strategies
2. Develop and implement national programmes for occupational health and safety of health workers
3. Protect health workers from violence in the workplace
4. Improve mental health and psychological well-being
5. Protect health workers from physical and biological hazards
“No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its #healthworkers safe.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) September 17, 2020
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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