Why Do India’s Healthcare Workers Need to Fight Unruly Patients And a Deadly Virus?


Why Do India’s Healthcare Workers Need to Fight Unruly Patients And a Deadly Virus?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

While in the past month citizens have shown their enthusiasm through “taali-thaali” and diya events in order to pay homage to medical personnel and essential workers at the frontlines combating the coronavirus outbreak, the reality of our life savers is bleaker than we lead ourselves to believe.

Starting today the employees and medical staff at Cooper Hospital, an important government hospital in the suburbs of Western Mumbai, have gone on strike. Earlier this morning they staged a big protest against the administration which led to chaos at the hospital. One of their main complaints is that a nurse was assaulted by a patient’s relative on Tuesday night. According to the hospital staff, no one from the security and administrative staff paid heed to the issue. The nurse is said to have been slapped and had the medicine tray thrown at her. It is also said that there were attempts to tear off her clothes. This has caused a great deal of concern amongst the health personnel, questioning why they are being subjected to such terrible behaviour with no repercussions, especially when the staff continues to risk their own lives to save that of the patients.

The lack of action from the management’s side has forced the staff to come together in protest to fight for their own safety and security. “We were ready to do our duty, and we will continue to do so but if we get beaten inside who will protect us then?,” a lady staff member told the Mumbai Mirror. As per sources, however, a police complaint has now been registered in this regard. The staff members also pointed out that patients were being discharged before the test results could come in. “If a suspected patient ends up testing positive later, what’s the point of looking for them? Are we going to find them after they have affected 10 other people?”

The staff has also stressed on the lack of adequate safety kits to treat patients amid the corona crisis, a demand that has been highlighted by multiple health personnel across the nation since the hasty and unplanned lockdown.

The staff has also stressed on the lack of adequate safety kits to treat patients amid the corona crisis.

Recently, on April 8, around 150 nursing staff, paramedics and other employees at Bandra’s KB Bhabha Municipal General Hospital protested outside the hospital, alleging that they had been provided with low quality Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs). They also demanded of the healthcare department to quarantine them after a woman who passed away at the facility had tested positive for Covid-19. A staff member also asked for their immediate family members to be quarantined on priority, asking why should their near and dear ones be put to danger.

In fact, just a week before, on March 31, the medical staff at Bhabha hospital put forth their demands, protests were reported in West Bengal’s hospitals in districts of North Bengal and Howrah for the same. At Howrah General Hospital, the healthcare workers  protested in front of the hospital superintendent’s office, demanding PPE and other medical facilities like sanitisers for the treatment of coronavirus-affected patients.

On the same day, nurses and paramedical staff at the Government Rajindra Hospital in Patiala protested against the authorities for allegedly failing to provide safety gear meant for treating coronavirus patients. The nurses stated that the provided kits were faulty and were being provided just to the staff in isolation wards. The protesters pointed out that the staff in the emergency department are the first ones to be exposed to the patients.

With the nation heading into an extended lockdown, the repetitive pattern citing the lack of responsibility from the authorities should raise red flags amongst citizens. What India’s health workers need right now more than ever, aren’t speeches that lead nowhere and diyas lit from the warmth of our homes, but realistic and timely actions that aid their line of duty.