Dozens of doctors stood outside the MRI centre at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, maintaining a careful distance from each other. Men and women stood with their masks and face shields, listening to several doctors representing the Kerala Government Medical College Teachers' Association (KGMCTA) speak. This is their protest against the suspension of senior doctor Aruna, who was also the COVID-19 nodal officer of the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, and two head nurses.
At the front of this gathering are four doctors who have been on a 48-hour hunger strike, since the day the protests began across the medical colleges of Kerala. So far, they have only registered protest by delaying the Out Patient (OP) treatment, boycotting duty from 8 to 10 in the morning. The hunger strike is however happening only in Thiruvananthapuram and on the morning of October 5, the four doctors on fast were replaced by others.
Doctors on 48-hour fast being honoured
â€śMedical College doctors, teachers, house surgeons and postgraduate students are protesting. Apart from the hunger strike and the boycott of OP duty, we have stopped online classes. We do not wish to trouble the patients. But if the government does not revoke the suspension, we will have to think of other measures, such as breaking non-COVID treatment. We do not want to do this as doctors, but it is very unfair to put the blame of an unfortunate incident in the hospital on a single doctor, when it is in fact the failure of the system,â€ť says Dr Dileep, secretary of KGMCTA, Thiruvananthapuram.
The incident that he is referring to is the maggot infestation found in the bedsores of a COVID-19 patient at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College. The medicos allege that that is the fault of a system where there is a shortage of resources.
COVID-19 nodal officers of other medical colleges in Thrissur, Kozhikode and Ernakulam have also submitted their resignation in protest, asking to be relieved from COVID-19 responsibilities.
â€śFor the last many months, all the health workers â€“ doctors, nurses and postgraduate students â€“ in the hospital and on the field have been doing great work in controlling the pandemic. However, a very unfortunate incident has occurred to a COVID-19 patient,â€ť says Dr Riaz, a member of the KGMCTA.
Watch: Protest by doctors at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College
Doctors at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College protest following Covid-19 protocol, against the suspension of Dr Aruna. Doctors at medical colleges across the state are protesting in ways that wouldn't affect patient care. #Thiruvananthapuram #MedicalCollege #DrAruna pic.twitter.com/eBfqDxOs3Pâ€” Cris (@cristweets) October 5, 2020
Calling the maggot infestation of the patient very unfortunate, he said that it happened because of the shortage of adequate hospital staff. â€śBut the government responded by suspending the medical officer who was in charge of COVID-19 care. She was working day in and day out for many months and saving many lives. We are requesting the government to withdraw the suspension and boost the morale of the health workers to continue the good work. In war, we have to defend the soldiers and not punish them,â€ť Dr Riaz adds.
The medicos expect the government to call them for talks by Monday evening.
â€śWithout addressing the real issue and finding a solution for it, the suspension is a move to divert the attention of the people,â€ť alleges Dr Athira, a house surgeon. â€śA ward with more than 60 patients and no bystanders â€“ some of them critical â€“ is under the care of four or five nursing assistants. It is humanly impossible for these staff to tend to every patientâ€™s care for 24 hours. There is also a limit to how much a person can sustain in a PPE kit. With all these shortcomings, Dr Aruna managed to do excellent work, leading her team efficiently. Suspending her will only hurt the morale of other health workers,â€ť Dr Athira adds.