Karnataka Education Minister K Sudhakar, who has been tasked with overseeing the COVID-19 crisis in Bengaluru, went on a surprise visit to KC General Hospital on Friday night and discovered a huge shortage of staff at the hospital. KC General Hospital is one of the designated government hospitals for COVID-19 patients in Bengaluru.
In a video shared on social media, medical staff in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are seen talking to the Minister at a distance, from the foot-over-bridge outside the hospital. Addressing the Minister, one nurse is heard asking, “For every 10 patients, one (nurse) should be there. We have 112 patients and two (nurses). Night duty only two sisters (for) 112 patients, how we can manage, sir? And out of five physicians, three are (coronavirus) positive and only two are working.”
The staff member further told the Minister that only one Group-D employee was on duty and was shifting dead bodies of those who succumbed to COVID-19 by himself.
Speaking to TNM, Dr Venkateshiah, Medical Superintendent of KC General Hospital, admitted that there is a huge shortage of staff because many of them tested positive for the virus.
“Ideally, there should be at least one nurse for every 15 patients. But as many as 22 nurses have tested positive for coronavirus. Eleven others are in quarantine as they were the primary contacts of the staff (who tested positive).”
The Superintendent said that it was not just the nursing department who were affected. “Out of 84 staff, 59 are not working for various reasons. Some of the older staff have gone on leave. Staff from all departments — doctors, nurses, Group-D workers and even blood bank staff— have turned out to be positive. About 30 of the infected staff have finished 10 days of treatment and are healthy. But they will only come back to work next week. Until then, we will have a tough time,” he said.
Dr Venkateshiah also noted that currently there are 25 nurses who are working. “The rest of the staff should not turn positive or the situation will get worse.”
The Medical Superintendent said that they were taking precautions to safeguard staff who are still not working. “We have had a Zoom meeting with WHO officials on how to prevent infections within hospitals. We are fumigating and spraying wards twice a day, and we have given all equipment, including N-95 masks and PPE kits, for all staff including emergency staff.”
Hospital staff stretched thin
When the Minister asked the hospital staff whether they were facing issues with PPE kits, the nurse is seen highlighting the stress faced by the medical staff.
“Even though we wear PPE, we are getting exposed to the high viral load — the stress we are facing. We think we are turning positive because of this,” said the nurse, requesting the Minister to depute physicians, anaesthetists and Group-D staff.
The Medical Superintendent of KC General Hospital, sounding exhausted, said that he, like many of the other medical staff, is stretched thin. “I am fully tired. I have not had rest for four-and-a-half months. Too many patients are coming to the hospital and we are finding it tough to cope. There are many non-COVID patients too, who we must look after — SARI (severe acute respiratory infection) and ILI (influenza-like illness) patients are coming in and these people are also turning positive. We are very stressed about this,” he added.