Even as Telangana continues to witness a steep rise in COVID-19 cases each day, nearly 30 General Medicine students have been abstaining from duties for the past three days at the Osmania General Hospital (OGH) in Hyderabad, citing exhaustion.
The postgraduate students who are boycotting duties said that they are overburdened with COVID-19 work and have informed the administration that they would not resume duties unless the hospital management recruits staff from other departments to aid them.
The protesting students wrote a letter to Dr Ramesh Reddy, the Director of Medical Education, notifying him about the problem prevailing at the OGH; the protest has been ongoing since Saturday.
Speaking to TNM, one of the protesting students said, â€śAlready six medicos from our medicine unit were tested positive for the virus. We are severely understaffed, and it is impossible to manage the growing number of patients. We canâ€™t handle these many patients.â€ť
The doctor, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed concerns for their physical safety, fearing that they would be attacked by relatives of patients.
â€śThe situation in OGH is out of control. There are inadequate (number of) beds, stretchers are not available and very little staff are present to oversee patients. We, as doctors, are supposed to take care of patients. But the patients here are under severe distress. And they are questioning us about these issues. How can we be held accountable? These issues have to be addressed by the administration. But their anger is wrongly directed at us,â€ť he expressed.
As Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad is designated as the nodal COVID-19 hospital, other cases are being shifted to OGH, which has exhausted the medical students.
OGH is particularly witnessing more number of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) cases. For this, four isolation wards with a 70-bed facility have been created.
According to the Hospital Superintendent, B Nagender, on average, 50 COVID-19 suspected patients are visiting the hospital, of which, around 10 to 12 patients test positive for the novel coronavirus.
The protesting students have asked the administration to engage additional PG students from other departments to handle the workload; the request, however, was declined by the Heads of Department of the respective departments.
â€śThe administration is asking us to manage the crisis with more number of house surgeons, but that is not practical. House surgeons are interns and canâ€™t handle these patients who are in distress. They need to work under proper guidance. So it is only the PG students who have to guide them,â€ť another medical student said.
Speaking to TNM, OGH Superintendent, B Nagender said, â€śThe students have been absconding from services at a crucial time. They are not coming to duties. They have asked us to provide support from other departments, but those departments have cited practical problems, so we arranged for the house surgeons, but they donâ€™t want them.â€ť
At present, house surgeons and Duty Medical Officers (DMOs) are overseeing the patients.
In Telangana, over the past week, since the government increased the COVID-19 testing, many people have been testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.
On Sunday, out of the 3,297 samples tested, 730 tested positive â€” the highest single-day spike of COVID-19 cases. The positivity rate was 22.14%, which is far higher compared to the national average of around 6%.
Meanwhile, the Telangana Junior Doctorsâ€™ Association has pointed out that the present crisis in OGH is due to the centralisation policy adopted by the state.
â€śAs Gandhi Hospital has been converted into a COVID-19 hospital, all the other cases and COVID-19 suspected cases are going to OGH,â€ť observed TJUDA president Dr Vishnu. â€śThis crisis will only end if the government decentralises, and asks the district hospitals to handle both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 cases,â€ť he said.