COVID-19 Surge in Maharashtra: Hospitals seek deployment of Final year medical, Nursing students
Pune: The second wave of the ongoing pandemic has shown the vulnerability of the entire medical infrastructure of the country and the doctors and healthcare workers are working under immense pressure to deal with the surge of new Covid-19 cases. Amidst the acute shortage of healthcare professionals in the hospitals and medical colleges, the demand for roping in the final year medical and nursing students are gaining momentum.
The authorities are concerned about the shortage of nursing staff as well as many of the trained nurses are going abroad and half of the existing nursing staff are testing positive for the infection. This has resulted in a poor patient-nurse ratio amidst the surge of Covid-19 cases. Thus, the authorities have expressed their opinion against allowing the trained nurses to go abroad during a pandemic in their home country only because they are paid more outside.
According to doctors, and hospital authorities, help from the medical students could help take the load off the existing medical staff as these students can take care of the basic procedures including checking the temperature, and especially the paperwork.
Apart from the pressure to provide the thousands of Covid-19 patients with medical service, the doctors, and hospitals are liable to document everything including updating the bed availability on a daily basis on the Covid-19 dashboard. These jobs can be easily done by the medical and nursing students.
While commenting on the war-like situation and putting emphasis on breaking the existing norms to deal with the crisis, Bhote, chief executive officer at Ruby Hall Clinic, told the Times of India, "We have about 500 beds, but we don't have the medical staff to support this capacity. We need to get the final year medical, nursing and paramedic students to work in the hospitals. When you fight a war, you don't look at the qualifications, but you see the reserves and check how best you can use them. At least, they can assist others. There is so much paperwork, documentation, and data entry jobs these students with medical backgrounds can do. Nurses and doctors can do their jobs. This will reduce the burden on them. If the government can pass such an order diverting at least final-year students to hospitals, it can really help."
Expressing his concern regarding the shortage of nursing staff amidst the pandemic, he further added, "The burden on nurses has gone up by over 3-4 times and on top of that half of the nursing staff is testing positive for Covid. The availability of nurses has gone down by 50%. We need to increase this number. We run a college of nursing and all of them go abroad after two years of training. There should be guidelines saying that all medical staff need to work. No one should be allowed to stay home. We need all able hands."
Natarajan, CEO at Symbiosis University Hospital and Research Centre has also expressed his concern regarding the shortage in medical staff.
Speaking to TOI about the situation, he said, "In the ICU, we had a 1:1 ratio of nurses and patients. Now, for non-invasive ventilation, we are doing 1:2 one nurse for two patients. In the wards, we had 1:6, but now it is 1:10. One of the reasons is attrition. Nurses are flying off to the Gulf or other countries. Even these countries are relaxing their norms and other eligibility conditions so that nurses can easily get jobs. The salaries offered by them are 10 times higher than what we give. We can have some guidelines so that nurses cannot resign unless they provide proof that they will be going to another Indian hospital to treat Covid patients. Currently, we are exporting our trained nurses when we are facing a shortage."
While on one hand, the hospital authorities are appealing for roping in final year medical and nursing staff, the medical students and resident doctors on the other hand are complaining of academic loss due to Covid duty.
TOI adds that as per the Resident Doctors' Association, faculty members, and senior doctors apart from the core branch are not sharing the responsibility in the Covid-19 centers.
Thus, RDA has demanded increased manpower, channelization of all medical practitioners and nurses to work in Covid-19 units, forming a dedicated Covid-19 unit after the surge so that the resident doctors would be able to focus on their own domain and attend to non-covid patients.
Adding that this would lead towards a situation where postgraduate doctors would be left without any domain knowledge, Prashant Munde, Current advisor, former general secretary of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) told the daily, "These are unprecedented situations, but the administration can streamline the work by calling all doctors and nurses registered in the state to work. Their data is readily available. Secondly, while resident doctors are all working in Covid-19 ward, faculty members and non-core branch senior doctors are not. Most of them are not sharing the responsibility of Covid-19 patients, making postgraduate students work continuously."
Medical Dialogues had also reported about the issue earlier. It had been reported that the Maharashtra State Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) had recently submitted a letter to the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) pointing out several issues which the healthcare sectors are facing at the moment.
While expressing concern about the education of the trainee doctors and the treatment of the non-COVID patients, the association had put forward its demand of equal distribution of COVID victims in all the medical colleges instead of converting one particular facility into a COVID dedicated facility.