Telanganaâ€™s healthcare workers have now demanded that the state government provide them accommodation in hotels and state-run quarantine centres. The demands were made after doctors and healthcare workers on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 tested positive for the coronavirus in Telangana.
Last week, several positive cases were reported from the hostels of Osmania Medical College (OMC) in Hyderabad, from where junior doctors went to treat COVID-19 patients at Fever Hospital, Fever Hospital and Government Maternity Hospital in Petlaburj. The Telangana government put a 'rotation' policy into place after they tested positive.
As per the new guidelines, 50% of all doctors in the wards would be in quarantine while the other half would treat patients. Once in a week, the two groups swap their roles. However, for now, the doctors say that they have to remain in home quarantine and fear exposing their families to the virus if they turn out to be asymptomatic carriers.
"At present, 49 healthcare workers from OMC, four from Gandhi Hospital and 26 from Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) have tested positive. It's a worrying trend. Since we are at risk, we are demanding that accomodation should be provided," says Dr G Srinivas, President, Resident Doctors Association.
A large chunk of those who tested positive are junior doctors who live in hostels, where being in quarantine is extremely difficult. Many of them had complained that it was not only the COVID-19 wards where healthcare workers were at risk, but also at the Out-Patient Department (OPD) wards.
"OPD wards have been really crowded and maintaining physical distancing is very difficult as each patient is accompanied by many who attend to them. Many of the junior doctors, who tested positive, were doing their duties in OPD wards," a member of the Telangana Junior Doctors Association (TJUDA) told TNM.
"Even we should get the accommodation as many of us either have aged parents or young children at home. It's an occupational hazard for us, but we do not want them to be affected," he added.
Even as early as April, the Telangana government had considered the proposal to house doctors in hotels.
A Government Order (GO) was issued and Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar had appointed a committee comprising three senior IAS officers --- Neetu Kumari Prasad, Raghunandan Rao and Lokesh Kumar, to work out details such as number of hotel rooms required and how much it would cost.
"We are preparing a contingency plan. If such a situation arises where we will have a large number of patients, we do not want healthcare people to go home as there will be a risk to their families," Somesh Kumar had said at the time.
However, the government had not taken steps in this regard till date.
"The GO still stands. It just needs to be implemented. We are also requesting the state government to ensure that healthcare workers who test positive are given treatment separately, in a designated area," Srinivas adds.
According to sources, an accommodation plan is in the works by the Telangana government and is expected to be made public soon.