By Sharon Thambala
Bengaluru, July 16 (IANS) Several private hospitals in the city are facing acute shortage of doctors, nurses, ward boys and helpers amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic, an official said on Thursday.
“There is actually acute shortage of manpower in Bengaluru hospitals, especially nurses, ward boys and aayahs (helpers). Even before Covid, we had a little shortage but after Covid they all left in droves,” Karnataka chapter Indian Medical Association (IMA) official Ravindra told IANS.
He roughly estimated the shortage to be 6,000 doctors and about 12,000 – 18,000 nurses and ward boys.
A major reason Ravindra cited for the shortage is the fear of contracting the virus amid the pandemic as they discharge duties in hospitals.
“Some of them cannot work because they are pregnant or above 55, diabetic or other health problems. Some of them are not coming to work although they did not leave the job,” he said.
Besides the scare of getting infected, the IMA official said some of the health workers themselves are already Covid positive, quarantined or admitted in hospitals.
In case of support staff, he said most of them are migrant workers from Gulbarga and other districts who panicked after seeing some videos of Covid victims being dumped and buried.
“They said if I have to die, I don’t want to die in Bengaluru. I will die and get buried in my native place. After those videos went viral, quite a few have left,” explained Ravindra, deciphering the social media impact as well.
Similarly, the virus has also sent the doctors and health workers’ duty schedules haywire, prohibiting them from working continuously.
“Duty schedules are also changing. As per government guidelines, they cannot work continuously. So if they work for two weeks and even if they are alright, one week they have to be compulsorily on leave. Because of this, we are facing a huge shortage of manpower, especially nurses and ward boys,” said Ravindra, who is also a doctor.
Amid spiking infections everyday, the state health department has created a new duty roster for healthcare workers to ensure continuous availability of services in Covid Care Centres (CCCs.)
Accordingly, all doctors, nursing staff, paramedics and other support staff working in CCCs will have 10 days duty at a stretch, followed by four holidays.
Likewise, to ensure their safety and others, all of them will also be made to undergo a rapid antigen test after their 10-day-long duty.
According to Ravindra, the impact of shortage of doctors is pronounced more on smaller hospitals, resulting in up to 20 per cent of them not reporting to work.
“In smaller hospitals, some of the doctors have just disappeared. In large hospitals, especially the elderly, above 55 are not coming to work. Youngsters, many of them have elderly parents at home or small children so they are also not coming,” pointed out Ravindra.
Meanwhile, to instill some sense of security in the employees, many hospitals bought insurance cover for all of them.
“We have all taken insurance, most of the hospitals. Most of the hospitals have almost doubled the salaries of doctors, nurses and wards boys,” said Ravindra about the huge expenses hospitals are incurring.
Likewise, private hospitals have also asked the government to provide some sort of insurance or death benefit which Ravindra said the government has extended to government hospital staff.
To overcome the staff shortage, private hospitals have asked the government to supply manpower, such as deputing post graduate medical students, nursing students and others as the hospitals have beds and infrastructure but not sufficient manpower.
Recently, the city civic body has initiated the process to recruiting 1,700 medical professionals, doctors, staff nurses and support staff to scale up its workforce to establish 30,000 Covid care beds
To establish and run 30,000 Covid care beds, 1,800 doctors and 3,600 nurses are required.
The health department has calculated that one doctor per shift is needed for every 100 patients and one staff nurse for every 50 patients. Similarly, two supporting staff and three Group D employees are needed per shift for every 100 patients.
Generally, a day is divided into three shifts of eight hours each.
According to the director of medical education, there are 25,000 nursing students who have completed GNM and BSc Nursing courses and pursuing higher education.
Likewise, there are 3,231 medical, dental and Aayush interns while MD and MS postgraduate students have been identified to be 1,613, in Bengaluru colleges.
However, according to Ravindra, most of the students have returned home, forcing the government to issue orders that if they do not return, action would be initiated against them.
“All the college post graduate students have left. So the government is saying if you don’t come back, we will have to take action, that is the only weapon the government has now,” he highlighted.
Bengaluru is the epicentre of Covid in Karnataka, grappling with 22,944 cases, out of which 17,051 are active.