Amid the staff crunch at the city's private hospitals in the wake of the recent exodus of nurses, most medical facilities here have decided to cater to a limited number of patients, and counsel the existing employees to prevent them from following suit.
Over 350 nurses have quit jobs at private hospitals here and left for their homes in Manipur and other parts of the country, notwithstanding the spurt in COVID-19 cases.
A senior official of Peerless Hospital in south Kolkata, which is currently short of 25 nurses, said the number of patients admitted would be in proportion to the total beds available.
"The number of admissions will be restricted as we have to make do with the existing staff. It seems those that left are not going to come back anytime soon. As of now we have to wait patiently. Nurses cannot be produced overnight," Peerless Hospital Managing Director (MD) Dr Sujit Kar Purkayastha told PTI.
At AMRI, one of the designated COVID-19 hospitals in Bengal, the authorities are counselling the staff members to prevent them from leaving. At least 77 nurses from the hospital have left for their hometowns in other states.
AMRI CEO Rupak Barua said assurances have been given to the staff members that their concerns would be addressed.
We are talking to our employees and addressing their problems. We are planning to rope in those who have retired, Barua said.
Prashant Sharma, the MD of Charnock Hospital, said the management was having a difficult time making a fresh roster.
"This is the problem with almost all private hospitals. Nurses from Manipur, Odisha and Tripura, who had been working for us all this while, are suddenly leaving. Those from Bengal, Kerala and other south Indian states are still here, we will have to make a revised roster."
The east Kolkata hospital, which had shut its doors for a few weeks after one person, who had gone there for dialysis, tested positive for COVID-19, reopened on May 14 with only 35 beds.
Sharma said that he fears the problem might aggravate over the next few weeks, and suggested that the state take immediate steps to address the issue.
A senior official of Bhagirathi Neotia Woman and Child Care Centre, where more than 50 Manipuri nurses have stopped reporting for work since last week, said, "We knew this was coming. We had heard whispers. Most of them have left without submitting resignations."
As of now the patient footfall is low, and the hospital is coping with the crisis somehow, he said.
"Once the lockdown is revoked, we have no idea how to deal with the staff shortage. None of these nurses are available on phones. They have switched off their phones. The ones still there are working overtime..." he said.
Other private facilities in the city facing a similar predicament include RN Tagore Hospital, Medica, IRIS Multispeciality Hospital, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals Limited, AMRI hospital, Fortis Healthcare Limited, Charnock Hospital and Belle Vue.
A nurse who left for Manipur, earlier in the week, said safety concerns and parental pressure were the two main reasons due to which she quit her job.
Association of Hospitals of Eastern India, a non- statutory body comprising 17 private facilities in Kolkata as members, has written to Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha seeking his intervention for resolving the crisis.
In his letter, Pradeep Lal Mehta, the president of the association, said, "Although the exact reason why they are leaving is not known, we have found out from nurses still on duty that the state government of Manipur is offering them lucrative stipend upon returning home."
Taking to Facebook, however, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh rubbished the claim and said, "No such advisory has been issued by the state. We are not asking anybody to return. We feel proud of them as they serve the patients in Calcutta, Delhi and Chennai."
Sources in the health department said the government has sought information on nurses, including their place of origin, from different hospitals here.