Controversy: LNJP Hospital asks quarantined doctors to vacate hotel or pay up, later puts order in abeyance
New Delhi: After facing strong backlash from the doctors on its recently released notice to all its quarantined staff asking them to vacate the hotel or Dharamshala rooms arranged by the hospital authorities amid coronavirus outbreak, the Delhi's Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) Hospital has put the order in abeyance for a week.
As per the order, the staff was directed to vacate the said accommodation by 12 pm on May 21st. Issued by LNJP's Medical Director Suresh Kumar, it stated that the hospital will not spend money after May 21 and the guest will have to bear the expenses himself or herself.
The order dated May 20, cited the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and read, "Regular quarantine of healthcare workers after performing duty in COVID-19 areas is not warranted" and those medical staff under quarantine must vacate the accommodation provided in hotels and Dharamshala across the city.
The Delhi government had earlier decided that the doctor, nurses or paramedical staff engaged in the treatment of coronavirus patients will work continuously for 14 days, after which they will get 14 days rest. A 14-day rest meant that they should be quarantined so that even if there is any kind of infection, their family will not be harmed. It was also decided that the LNJP Hospital would make arrangements for all such people to stay in the hotels or Dharamshala or any other place. The hospital was to bear all the expenses.
The Delhi health department in an order issued on March 29 had said that doctors treating coronavirus patients at LNJP and GBP hospitals will be accommodated at a private hotel here on city government's expense. The order had said the accommodation will be provided at the plush Lalit Hotel in central Delhi.
But on May 20th, in compliance with the government directions, the hospital order stated that the medical staff should vacate the accommodation. See the order attached below:
This move was immediately opposed by the Resident Doctors Association, which further had written a letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan stating, "The coronavirus can show its effect by two to 14 days. Non-symptomatic healthcare workers have been found to be coronavirus positive in many cases even after wearing PPE kits."
"After duty, the staff should be quarantined and they should be tested for COVID-19 even if they do not show any symptom or wear PPE kits... It is important. Removing this system will increase the risk of the virus spreading to doctors, their families, patients and the community. Therefore, amend the recently released guidelines and give relief to the corona warriors of the country," the letter further read.
According to the Centre's new guidelines for the healthcare workers issued on May 15, "only healthcare workers with high-risk contacts will be in quarantine who have handled coronavirus patients without proper PPE or who have symptoms".
Based on the guidelines of the central government, Delhi Health Secretary Padmini Singla also issued orders. After the order of Health Secretary, the Medical Director of LNJP Hospital had also issued orders in this regard.
The RDA at Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) had also moved the hospital authorities considering which the order has been put on hold for a week now.
Certain source from the hospital informed PTI, "The RDA of the Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) submitted a representation to the hospital authorities, raising infeasibilities in complying with the order, like spreading the infection to their family if the healthcare workers leave the quarantine facility before the 14-day period. So, it has been decided to put yesterday's order in abeyance for a week."
During this time, modalities will be worked out, to treat the situation on a "case by case basis", the source added.
Dr Parv Mittal, President of the RDA of MAMC, said, "We had appealed to the Medical Director of the hospital to reconsider the decision. Doctors are also getting infected by a coronavirus, and going back to home means running the risk of infecting family members". "We were given assurance that our appeal will be heard," he added.
The Safdarjung hospital has also issued an order stating that the hospital will provide the facility of hotel quarantine for its healthcare workers till five days after Covid duty and the rest nine days of quarantine should be completed at home. Salaries will be deducted for overstaying in the hotel, it adds. "This order came today (Thursday). It will be implemented from May 23 on the new batch of COVID workers," said an RDA member.
Meanwhile, the medical staff of state- and centrally-run hospitals in Delhi held a symbolic protest on May 22 to protest against the government's decision to withdraw hotel quarantine facility and COVID testing of healthcare workers. They wore a black ribbon at work. The protest was led by the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA).
#QuarantineforHCWs "Black Ribbon Protest" in various Hospitals demanding Adequate Quarantine & Adequate Testing of Doctors & other HCWs post-#COVID19 duty @drharshvardhan @MoHFW_INDIA @DrHVoffice @ArvindKejriwal @SatyendarJain @CMODelhi @ANI @timesofindia @the_hindu @ians_india pic.twitter.com/5Ooukq3rkI— FORDA INDIA (@FordaIndia) May 22, 2020