Workers of KEM Hospital, Mumbai held a protest dharna at the hospital premises on May 26, from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They were protesting against the death of a fellow worker two days ago, due to callousness of the hospital authorities.
The deceased worker, aged 45, was reported to have died on May 24 after suffering from high grade fever, loss of taste and body pain. He worked in a COVID-19 ward. According to his fellow workers, he had been exhibiting symptoms since May 20, but was not tested or granted leave even after he fell ill. He continued to report to work till May 24. On May 24 evening, his family rushed him to KEM hospital, but he passed away en route. His death was declared as a suspected Covid-19 death and his body was handed over to his family on May 26, after lying in the mortuary for two days.
Several protesting workers reported that they were not given leave or proper treatment facilities by the hospital authorities, even when they were stretching themselves to the maximum and undertaking great personal risk, to perform their duties. They also demanded better working conditions for the health workers in the hospital.
Nurses at a private hospital in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave refused to return to work on May 26, after one of their colleagues, aged 46, died recently due to COVID-19. She had been working at the hospital’s neonatal wing for the past ten years and was recently deputed at the ICU.
The nurses have complained that for the past two months they had been asked by the hospital authorities to re-use the personal protective equipment (PPE). Their objections have been brutally ignored by the hospital management, which tried to make light of the hazards they were exposed to in their work. The deceased nurse’s colleagues disclosed that even on her last day at work a week ago, she had raised the issue of non-availability of “fresh PPE and masks” with the nursing in-charge but her request was cruelly rejected.
The agitating nurses have reported that on May 18, after finishing her morning shift, the nurse complained of fever, bad throat and body ache and could not attend the night shift. However, the hospital authorities took no steps to have her tested, neither was she granted leave. Three days later, on May 21, after she developed difficulty in breathing, she was taken to Safdarjung Hospital where she succumbed to COVID-19 on the afternoon of May 24.
Doctors at the hospital too have objected to the fact that the nurses were being denied PPE. They have pointed out to the authorities repeatedly that the nurses are forced to work in OT gowns and wear washable cloth masks, thus exposing themselves to great risk.
A sanitation worker at AIIMS Delhi, who was working without protective gear, succumbed to COVID-19 on May 25. Reports indicate that he had developed symptoms of COVID-19 about a week ago and was asked to rest at home after the hospital conducted his blood test but after a few days, his condition deteriorated. He was rushed to the emergency ward where he tested positive and died within a week.
Agitated sanitation workers at AIIMS have highlighted the fact that their work constantly exposes them to potential infection sources and that they too should be given PPE on priority basis, like doctors and nurses.