Demands have been growing for providing financial assistance to healthcare workers who get infected while treating COVID-19 patients. Currently, these workers, including doctors, are forced to pay hefty hospital bills which run into lakhs of rupees from their own pockets as there is no mechanism to compensate them for the same. Recently, Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) wrote to the union health minister requesting the government to reimburse the hospital expenses of healthcare workers.
The association took up the matter after taking note of the case of Dr Amit Gupta, Senior Resident, Paediatrics at Satyavadi Raja Harish Chandra Hospital, Delhi. Gupta has been admitted in a private hospital as no bed was available in the hospital where he works. He was also not given any financial assistance by the government, according to FORDA. After the association took up the matter, the Delhi government stated that it will take care of all the hospital expenses of Dr Amit Gupta.
Intervening in the matter, National Human Rights Commission had issued notices to both the centre and the Delhi government. The commission has also asked the union health ministry and the Delhi government to consider providing adequate medical care and financial protection to all the contractual medical and paramedical staff deployed by the centre and state governments to serve the patients. The commission also observed that it is a serious issue if the contractual doctors or resident doctors and paramedical staff of the Delhi Government and other central government hospitals are not getting life care medical facilities when they fall ill during their service to save the lives of the people during such a pandemic situation.
FORDA, in a letter sent to the health minister, stated that they are losing members of the fraternity and doctors are not able to get medical care at their own institutions. “In case the patient is shifted to a private setup since there are no dedicated facilities for doctors, no financial assistance is offered unless one’s condition deteriorates and is on death bed and there is outrage,” stated the association. In the case of Dr Amit Gupta, the association stated his healthcare needs could not be addressed at the hospital where he was working. It warned that such a callous attitude will not only dishearten COVID warriors but also demotivate them.
Extend cover to all doctors: FORDA
The association urged the government to include all COVID positive doctors in the health insurance scheme. It also demanded that the government include the provision of a cashless treatment facility for all COVID positive doctors in the health insurance schemes in both government and non-government setups.
Speaking on the issue, Dr Partha Bora, Former President, FORDA, said: “In the current scenario, if a doctor gets infected while on duty, his family members have to run here and there to get him admitted as no hospital beds are reserved for healthcare workers. Even though ex gratia compensation is provided to the doctors who die due to COVID, no compensation is being provided to those who get infected. The problem is prevalent across the country and the governments should be ready to provide financial assistance to those who get infected.” He also demanded that at least some beds should be reserved for the healthcare workers.
Protect the Frontline: IMA
Supporting the demands of FORDA, Dr J A Jayalal, President of Indian Medical Association, said, “It is a war-like situation and the healthcare workers should be protected at a maximum possible level, otherwise we may lose many people. We have already lost 326 doctors in the second wave of COVID-19. It is the responsibility of everyone to protect the warriors who are working on the COVID frontline. Protection and safety is the paramount responsibility of all the stakeholders in the area. So we have appealed to private hospitals also to take care and give them substantial consideration.”
He added that the governments should make beds available for doctors on priority basis so doctors can get treatment. It will augment the mental strength of the doctors to face their frontline duties. Dr Jayalal further said that it is the responsibility of the directors of the institutes to take care of the doctors who get infected while on duty. Unfortunately, resident doctors have had to raise their voice on the issue, he pointed out.