From Fighting Stigma to Absent Public Transport, India's Medical Workers in Midst of Coronavirus Battle

Representative Image. Healthcare workers stand outside an isolated ward for coronavirus patients. (Photo: PTI)

Representative Image. Healthcare workers stand outside an isolated ward for coronavirus patients. (Photo: PTI)

Several doctors' associations have written to the government seeking its assistance after being stigmatised by landlords who think medical workers may be carrying the coronavirus.

New Delhi: Healthcare personnel across are battling a series of challenges as they remain at the frontline of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. From being seen as carriers of the virus to failing to find transport to work, their troubles start at the break of day and see no end until the next. The Union Home Ministry was recently forced to intervene to ensure doctors are not stigmatised by their landlords for doing their job after several such cases were reported. However, the problem has not appeared to subside.

A doctor at Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) shared a video message on social media narrating a similar ordeal. "Doctors and other health workers are not finding any relief from the treatment being meted out to them by their landlords. The government must take strict action as we are seen as the carriers of virus and are being told to leave the rented accommodation,” said Dr Parul Singh.

The Indian Professional Nurses Association flagged the same concern on March 25, in a letter to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. Signed by its office-bearers Arun GS and Siju Thomas, it said: “Landlords should be prohibited from adhering to the recent trend of evicting health workers owing to their concern that their health will be in jeopardy. Many health workers don’t have the roof over their heads, thanks to landlords and owners.”

The letter asked the government to direct landlords to relax their scheduled rent payment deadlines in case of delayed payment of salary, especially for private health workers, and also provide relaxation for EMI payments availed by health workers to ensure uninterrupted service.

The association said this is the time to provide free treatment for healthcare workers and their relatives in case of infection by COVID-19 while on duty. "Private hospitals should not charge or deduct salaries from the health workers if they get infected with COVID-19. The requisite of biometric be done away with for time being," it said.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a Rs 50 lakh insurance cover for healthcare workers and said the government has finalised an economic stimulus package to deal with the impact of the 21-day countrywide lockdown.

Other than lack of protective gear and sanitiSed wards at hospitals, a major concern is finding transport to work. Dr Pawan Simha of AIIMS told mediapersons through a video message that doctors are facing problems in finding transport and in movement, apart from being harassed by landlords to evict their rented apartments. "There is no public transport and there is difficulty to reach work. Travel facilities should be arranged for health workers," he said.

The Indian Professional Nurses Association also made the same request in its letter to the government, saying, “Proper transport amenity be arranged for health workers living outside public and private hospitals since the ban on public transport has been a mammoth hurdle to their commute. Also, the police and security administration must allow them to get to their work place without any hassles.”

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