The Price of Speaking Up: AIIMS Doc Who Complained About N95 Masks Expelled From Hospital’s RDA

Coronavirus

The Price of Speaking Up: AIIMS Doc Who Complained About N95 Masks Expelled From Hospital’s RDA

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on healthcare professionals across the world, who have had to put their lives on the line to treat patients over long shifts.

Doctors back home have had to deal with a shortage of protective gear, as well as live with the fear that they might be evicted from their homes, or face the wrath of a mob.

This week, a Delhi-based doctor was put in the line of fire by his own hospital. After making several complaints about the standards of the N95 masks provided to doctors, Dr Srinivas Rajkumar T, said he had been expelled from the AIIMS Residents’ Doctors Association, and will face action by the hospital’s disciplinary committee.

In a number of now-deleted tweets, and correspondences with media outlets, the doctor had earlier alleged that the hospital’s safety measures didn’t match the standards set by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, let alone the global standard.

The doctor, who warned of an imminent shortage of healthcare workers if the situation didn’t improve, has also been quoted complaining about the hostel premises, poor sanitation, lack of a proper quarantine protocol, and the need for adequate testing.

Over 200 healthcare workers have tested positive for Covid-19 from AIIMS alone.

Now, according to an interview to The Wire, the doctor says he’s been expelled following “continuous pressure from the administration”.

“I stand by what I said and everything I said is verifiable and based on facts. Every letter we wrote to the media raised important issues and we want a change in the condition of healthcare workers at AIIMS,” he told the publication.

In screenshots shared of a doctors’ WhatsApp group, Dr Srinivas is also seen complaining about his N95 mask, which had to be stapled together after first use.

“The N-95 stats claimed by MoHFW_INDIA and ICMR DELHI is a lie. There are major quality and standardisation issues with India-made N95. If you are a journo looking for leads or know one DM me or RT this,” he had tweeted earlier.

Also on his Twitter account was a letter signed by him addressed to the Prime Minister, in which authorities are urged to take the complaints “constructively” rather than as another reason to humiliate the doctors.

The show cause notice issued by AIIMS, meanwhile, with regard to his tweet on N95 masks, said that the doctor had provided “no evidence” to support his claims, and that despite access to institutional mechanisms for redressal, he had chosen to “voice his claims on a public platform”.

This, the hospital said, “can damage the morale of the frontline healthcare workers”. They also clarified that the doctor had been expelled from the RDA a week earlier for statements he had given to various media houses.

Now, it seems as though, in between dealing with unruly patients, paranoid mobs, and the high-handedness of landlords and hospital authorities, our doctors must also find a way to deal with the pandemic.

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