Lack of PPE Kits: Health Workers In Telangana Govt Hospitals At Risk?
In a state that is witnessing a steady jump in the number of positive cases of COVID-19, health workers are desperately attempting to bring a serious problem to the notice of the powers that be.
The Lede spoke with a nurse who works at a government hospital dealing with COVID-19 patients in Hyderabad. Names have been withheld to protect identity.
“Very few masks and kits are available. We have three shifts in a day. Those who work in COVID wards wear the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kit and others working outside the ward wear plastic covers. We have complained to our officials about the lack of PPE kits and they said this is what we are getting on a daily basis and that we have to adjust with what we get,” she said.
Nurses, doctors and other health workers are afraid of contracting the virus as they are in close contact with positive patients on a daily basis. Without the requisite PPEs, the chances of catching the infection go up exponentially.
“Since we have limited protective gear, those who work in the emergency ward don't eat, drink or even go to the washrooms for eight hours as they have to remove the mask for all these. We can’t afford one more mask,” she said.
The nurse said they were ready to serve the patients. But putting their own lives at such great risk was not acceptable.
“We are putting our lives at risk and serving patients but our hospital officials are not bothered about our lives. Few days back, a few patients were admitted in our hospital suspected of COVID-19. None of our officials informed us that they were admitted for this reason. Our fellow colleagues are taking care of these patients by giving medication and diet. We were in direct contact with the patients without wearing any protective measures. We have served these patients. After a few days we got to know from unofficial sources that these patients tested positive for COVID.
After knowing this immediately the doctors who treated these patients were tested and sent to quarantine by hospital officials. But none of them bothered about us. There were no tests conducted on us nor were we given any advice as to how to take safety measures,” she said.
These issues and many more have been compiled by nurses and handed over to the all India nursing association. The Lede has access to the issues raised by them at the national level.
Nurses say that they are frontline workers who spend the most amount of time with infected patients.
“Doctors will treat for few minutes and go but nurses and health workers are the ones who are in touch with the patients all the time. Now our colleagues who treated these patients went into depression. In a few other hospitals in Hyderabad, when our colleagues asked their superiors about not having been informed about the patient’s condition, the authorities replied very rudely - you won’t die, they are humans and you are humans, nothing will happen, go to your work,” she said.
Salaries she says, are an issue as well. Nurses say they have not been paid on time, despite the chief minister’s assurances.
“In many government hospitals out of 300, 100 are regular employees and 200 are contract employees. In this situation government has announced increments for us. Forget about increments, we don’t even get our salaries on time. We got last two months’ salary in the month of March. Many of us didn’t get this month’s salary. When we asked our contractors they are giving very rude answers asking us to leave the jobs if we are not interested. This job is livelihood for many of us. We can’t leave this job. So we are working without any proper facilities. We have joined this job to serve people. But none of them are bothered about us,” she said.
A member of a nurses association in Telangana says that there is pressure on those speaking out to refrain from doing so. Neither are their problems addressed and resolved, nor are they allowed to express their views in the public domain.
“Since we didn’t get any response from our officials, we went to our superintendent to discuss our problems. There, unexpectedly, we saw media people and told our problems. After that our superintendent is getting calls from Intelligence. Now he is worried about how to save himself and us from this problem. Because a few nurses made the mistake of informing the media about our problems.
Since our officials are not allowing us to tell our problems to the government, we have informed the national association and asked them to take this to the Prime Minister. We are hoping the Centre will understand and take necessary measures,” he told The Lede.
The letter that was sent by the national association to the Prime Minister and other officials is below.
In a press interaction on April 06, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao dismissed the claims of health workers about the lack of PPEs and blamed the media for what he termed fake news.
“I request the public not to believe a few news articles,” said the chief minister. “I am saying this because there are a few rogues in media who are spreading false information without any proof. I am sorry to say this, recently I saw in a newspaper, a headline asking to give protection to the doctors. If we don’t take of the health workers will you take care of them? You should have sense while publishing this news.
I saw in that article that there is a shortage of PPE kits. Do you know that we have 40,000 PPE kits? For giving wrong information I can file a case on this. This is the time when you have to build confidence in doctors but with your writing they are losing confidence.
I don’t understand how these people are going to protect the country with this writing. I am sorry to say this is highly condemnable."
“You may think that you will continue like this but you people will be punished for this. At this time what are you going to do by writing against the government *** (swear word in Telugu)?
Why are you writing such news? If you can’t write good stories then be at home. After appealing many times, still you people are continuing the same. How can you write such news asking to give protection to medicos? Are you the only one who is responsible? Already we have ordered for five lakh kits. Do you think that me and my health minister are sleeping? We are leading many sleepless nights on how to handle the present situation like things to do if we extend the lockdown or about ration and many more.
This is the time where we should support each other. Those who have bad intentions it is your fate. If you people still continue like this I pray that you people should be affected with Corona. If you get this then you will know the pain. I felt very bad for this. We have a lot of time for politics, then we will see our strength.
Now the entire world is facing an unknown situation. In this situation how should we react if a PM, CM or Collector gives an appeal? This is not the right thing what you people are doing. When the whole world is facing a problem you people are behaving as if you are the one who collect corn on the dead bodies.
Sorry I felt very bad. You people don’t have any responsibility and think that you can say anything. I appeal to media to stop this. Everything is recorded with the government. At the right time we will take action on you people. At the proper time we will give you proper punishment. We don’t sit quiet. This punishment is going to be very horrible. Because these people are anti-nationals.
In this crisis situation you should write something to build confidence in people, not this. At least now stop this. If not, you will get severe punishment. If KCR says so, understand how the punishment is going to be.
Don't think that I’m against media. I am for media and I respect media. We are against people who write like this, who write without knowing and spread false rumours.
I appeal to other media person to not encourage this. This time we need people who support government, not people like this," said the furious chief minister.