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Are we looking at a preventable debacle?

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DIMAPUR, AUGUST 2: Even as several deaths due to COVID are being reported in the state and COVID infections are spreading amongst frontline workers, including health workers and non-frontline workers, such incidents have not deterred our health workers from discharging their medical duties, although incidents of negligence have also been reported.
In the last few weeks, a number of health workers in the state have been reported COVID-19 positive and gone into isolation, yet the medical fraternity continues to work during the pandemic. However, the general health of the health workers would be put at a greater risk if they are denied nutritious food and balanced diet. Therefore it would be a great miscarriage of justice if they are asked to pay for the food while staying in hotels.
At the beginning of the pandemic in Nagaland, much concern was expressed and questions raised about availability of proper PPE kits and medical equipments for health workers to safeguard them from the virus but as the days passed by and the number of positive cases surged in the state, now questions of also providing better and adequate food to health workers are being raised from different quarters.
A recent circular, issued by the Medical Superintendent, Dimapur, Dr Z Kheshito Zhimo, has created resentment amongst health workers, both in the Government and private sectors.
As per the circular issued on July 30 last, which quoted a Government Order, dated 9th June 2020, health workers on COVID duty are entitled to only Rs 300 per day for diet.
The circular further stated “health workers under COVID-19 Hospital, Dimapur, staying in hotels willing to avail more quantity/quality food besides the specified amount will have to bear the extra expenses by themselves and also the bills should be countersigned by the team leader on daily basis which will be further forwarded to the Principal Director, Health & Family Welfare for necessary action.”
The circular also raises questions about funds received from the Centre to fight the pandemic in Nagaland. The very issue of proper utilization of these funds must now be re-visited. Surely, a good amount of these funds are also meant for the well-being of front-line health workers? Surely, their lives matter too?
As per reliable sources, health workers lodging in hotels are provided only Rice and Dal in the morning and afternoon ~ worth Rs 300. This amount doesn’t stretch out for dinner hence no dinner is served to them. For dinner, they have to pay out of their pockets.
Sources informed that some health workers, lodged in hotels, were not provided dinner on Saturday (August 1).
Terming the above-mentioned circular, directing health workers on COVID duty to pay for food beyond the allotted Rs. 300, a senior doctor of a private hospital said it is the most inhuman act in the history of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nagaland. He said the health workers are risking their lives and sacrificing everything to look after the welfare of COVID-19 patients, who are anyway a highly contagious group.
He also said health workers should be paid risk allowances and served the best food. “In today’s world, can you get 3 meals for Rs 300 in a day?” he questioned.
Another doctor of a private hospital was sad to know that his colleagues, who are in the Government sector, are being treated like this.
While asking where all the funds for COVID provided by the Centre have gone, he said in such pandemic, there is what is called ‘risk allowance’, which people, who put their lives on the line of duty, receive.
“Instead of giving them more incentives, it’s sad that they have to face this sort of treatment,” he told Nagaland Page.
Nagaland Page tried to contact the Medical Superintendent of Dimapur COVID-19 Hospital, and Chief Medical Officer for their comments but the calls went unanswered.
Meanwhile, when a former Principal Director, Health & Family Welfare, was contacted, the former PD expressed shock at the “absurd order” ~ whether issued by Directorate of Health & Family Welfare or MS, Dimapur.
“The whole world is giving priority privileges to medical frontline workers as well as non-medical service providers with free food, lodging, personal amenities/necessities, post-quarantine mobility services and even 24×7 free food, beverages, toiletries, gym/yoga facilities – you name it – FREE,” the former Principal Director said.
The former Principal Director said proper care and adequate nurturing of doctors, nurses and other health care workers should be the paramount objective of the parent Department ~ otherwise there would be a massive backlash if these brave-hearts get infected and the workforce gets depleted.
“The COVID-19 scenario in Nagaland is just starting to rear its ugly head and the numbers are increasing day by day. Let’s not be complacent in terms of adhering to the protocols and let’s also give maximum support to our caregivers,” the former PD stated.
Expressing disappointment at the way health workers are being treated, another doctor of a private hospital said despite knowing the dilapidated state of Nagaland’s healthcare system, such an order only adds to the discontentment and frustrations of an already overburdened group of people ~ the healthcare workers.
He said even a layman knows that health, good quality and nutritious food boosts one’s immunity and help keep fit and hoped that this matter is taken up immediately by the concerned officials and remedial steps taken to help boost the morale and also the welfare of the staff performing their duty diligently in all the COVID designated hospitals.
In a message to the concerned officials making such decision or passing orders, the doctor said, “Please do not blame the frontline workers (Doctors, Nurses, and support staffs) when you, your family, relatives and friends require their services, care and support and do not receive it as expected because they were unable to perform their duties to one’s optimum level for lack of nutritional food.”
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had earlier directed that there should be no dearth of facilities for any frontline workers, more so medical personnel. Recently, the apex Court directed the Centre to instruct States to pay salaries to all health front-liners and to consider their quarantine period as “on duty” and not as “on leave” ~ therefore, not to deduct from their salaries the period of their absence from duty. Are our health workers paid salaries on time? Are their quarantine and treatment period (if found COVID positive) treated as “on leave” or absent from duty? The public must also focus on these issues because without our healthy and happy health workers, Nagaland’s fight against the pandemic will result in a preventable debacle.
It may further be recalled that compensation for morbidity, mortality, up to Rs 50 lakhs and various risk allowances for health front-liners were also announced by the PMO at the beginning of the pandemic.
(Page News Service)