Corona Warriors: Protection of Health Workers should be the First Priority

As we can see that large number of health workers including doctors, nurses and Asha workers are the corona warriors standing in the front line to help the country. But on the other side it is very disheartening that some people are making risk to their life by throwing rocks or indulging in violation of rules, fighting.

By taking this into account the Union Cabinet on 22 April, 2020 approved the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 to provide stricter punishment for attacks against health workers.

What is the Ordinance for Strict punishments against attackers?

  • The Ordinance proposes that the police investigation of crime against medical workers should be over within 30 days and that the trial should be completed within one year.
  • The punishment ranges from 3 months to 5 years of imprisonment and fine from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakhs. If the injuries are grievous in nature, the punishment will extend upto 7 years imprisonment.
  • There will be no provisions for compensating the personal loss and property damages sustained by health workers.

What are the other issues before Health workers?

According to World Health Organisation media briefing, the health workers are facing the following issues:

  • Delayed recognition of COVID-19 symptoms and lack of experience in dealing with respiratory pathogens
  • Large number of patients in long shifts with inadequate rest periods
  • Lack of personal protective equipment
  • Lack of measures to prevent the spread in hospitals

What are the measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in hospitals?

In the PIL, various issues are highlighted which are faced by health workers:

  • Lack of basic facilities in isolation wards, isolation precautions are not being followed by WHO norms
  • Hourly disinfection is not being done in the wards
  • Mental harassment in the nature of forced overtime followed by negligible transport facilities and deduction of salary on account of leaves
  • Health workers who are pregnant, lactating or immune compromised are being forced to work
  • Recent trend of eviction of health workers from rented/leased property
  • Lack of accommodation, food, transportation etc
  • Lack of free medical support for the health care workers and their families  
  • Continuous breach of government guidelines by private hospitals

It is important to provide relief to the health workers by following the guidelines of WHO and ensuring the following on which PIL has been filed:

  • Ensure that all nurses and other health care staff in corona wards are provided with proper accommodation in close proximity to the hospitals/health care centres where they are discharging medical duties and functions.
  • Ensure that adequate and prompt transport provided to all health care workers deputed in Corona wards
  • Ensure proper screening of suspected patients before entering the hospitals and other medical facilities and also to ensure speedy testing of suspected cases.
  • Ensure that all health care workers are trained on infection prevention and control, proper use and disposal of PPE etc. To ensure that the infrastructure of hospitals and health care centres are temporarily expanded so as to provide separate and hygienic washrooms for staff.
  • Ensure that landlords/owners throughout the country be prohibited from adhering to the recent trend of evicting the health workers owing to their concern that their health will be in jeopardy.
  • Provide free testing facility and treatment for the health care workers in case of infection of Covid-19 while they are on duty. Families of the health care workers should be taken proper care while they are in quarantine or isolation.
  • Ensure that private hospitals are not charging or deducting salaries from the healthcare workers if they get infected Covid-19 while they are on duty.

Hence it is important for Indian government to follow the guidelines given by the WHO and also formulate National COVID 19 Management Protocol to ensure the safety of all the health workers.

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