Docs at Sion & KEM Hospitals Unpaid Since March. How Does Mumbai Expect to Win the Fight Against Covid-19?

Coronavirus

Docs at Sion & KEM Hospitals Unpaid Since March. How Does Mumbai Expect to Win the Fight Against Covid-19?

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Mumbai is at the heart of India’s battle against the coronavirus, being the largest city in Maharashtra, the state with the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases. However, in the city, the healthcare system is currently stretched thin due to the ravages of the pandemic. As the number of cases and deaths rises, a video went viral last week that showed a morbid scene from inside Sion Hospital, which is run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The video showed the dead bodies of patients placed in body bags lying on beds in the ward where patients were also being treated. This led to a burst of outrage on social media about the state of affairs in Mumbai’s hospitals.

Now, another troubling incident has come to light, pointed out by journalist Sucheta Dalal on Twitter – that the Resident Medical Officers (RMO) at Sion Hospital, along with KEM Hospital, Bhabha Hospital, and possibly others, have not been paid their salary or stipend since mid-March. If true, it’s another chink in Mumbai’s deteriorating armour against the coronavirus.

Despite this, the frontline warriors at Sion Hospital, including the doctors, nurses, attendants, and other staff, continue to serve Mumbai’s public as best as they can. Shortly after the video of the dead bodies in the ward went viral, a Junior Resident at Sion Hospital put out another viral post, this one highlighting the good work being done by the medical professionals there.

“In spite of all these comments and assaults, the work goes on! Wearing PPE kits and drenched with sweat, with nothing accessible for 6-8 hours at a stretch, Resident doctors at Sion Hospital would still be cheerful and work tirelessly because of a sense of pride to work in this Institute,” wrote the Junior Resident, Suraj Pai. The post was meant as a rebuttal of all the negativity that had been surrounding Sion Hospital after the first video started doing the rounds.

The Dean of the Hospital had come forward to clarify that the video was shot at a point when bodies were lying unclaimed because relatives were not willing to accept the body of a patient that had died of Covid-19. However, in just a matter of days after the damning footage of the ward went viral, the Dean was transferred and replaced with his successor.

The latest development to the story of Mumbai’s hospitals is the BMC finally taking steps to address the problem of unclaimed bodies by paying attendants a fee of ₹1,000 for every body they pack, transport to the mortuary, and handover to the concerned family, with a fresh kit of PPE for every shift.

While that takes care of the bodies of coronavirus victims, the issue of the unpaid salaries of staff still remains unsolved. Mumbai is at a critical phase in its fight against Covid-19. How the city’s authorities marshal their fraying healthcare system will be crucial to the outcome.

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