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SC calls healthcare workers coronavirus warriors, sets up helpline to redress complaints

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New Delhi: The Centre told the Supreme Court Wednesday that healthcare workers are coronavirus warriors and it will provide a specific helpline number for redressing their grievances such as salary cuts, delayed payment, non-availability of protective kits or eviction from rented accommodation.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, S K Kaul and B R Gavai disposed of a batch of petitions including that United Nurses Association (UNA) seeking to formulate a National COVID19 Management Protocol for addressing the serious concerns relating to imminent and extreme risks posed to the health and safety of healthcare workers throughout the country.

Advocate Subhash Chandran K R, appearing for UNA, said nurses and healthcare workers belonging to the association are working in over 400 private hospitals of the country and many of them have either faced salary cuts up to 50 per cent or delayed payment.

He said that due to the lack of proper safety equipment, around 150-200 nurses have been infected with COVID-19 or coronavirus and over 600 to 700 healthcare workers are in quarantine.

Chandran contended that besides health hazards, many nurses and healthcare workers are also being asked by their landlords to evict the accommodation for working close to coronavirus patients.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said healthcare workers in the country are coronavirus warriors and the government is taking all necessary steps to address their grievances.

He said Ministry of Home Affairs will set up a dedicated helpline number for redressal of the complaints and their grievances will be addressed within two hours.

The bench recorded the submission of Mehta and disposed of the plea of UNA and a similar petition filed by Indian Professional Nurses Association (INA).

The plea of UNA has said, A large number of healthcare workers including nurses, doctors, and other staffers are infected in various states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka etc. Lack of preparedness to tackle the pandemic has led to 10 nurses at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central contracting the infection and almost all 265 nurses in the said hospital are under observation to contain further spread .

The plea filed through advocate Biju P Raman said that unfortunately the Centre has not formulated a National Management Protocol for COVID19 for addressing the serious concerns relating to imminent and extreme risks posed to the health and safety of medical personnel throughout the territory of India, amidst the currently persisting and ever escalating spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health and safety (physical / mental) of health care workers are of utmost importance because further shortage of health care workers would result in thousands of unattended COVID-19 patients, which will have serious repercussions including escalation of the present situation and resultant impact on the economy, medical facilities, potential deaths and loss of human resource, it said.

The Association sought direction to Centre to provide COVID-19 protection kits to every single health care professional working in the corona isolation wards, or who work in close proximity of patients suspected to be infected with the virus.

It also sought various other directions including one to ensure that all health care workers are trained on infection prevention and control (IPC), proper use and disposal of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).


Also read: Without mass-testing support, lockdown won’t go a long way in containing Covid


 

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India

Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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