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Doctors at Telangana’s main Covid hospital boycott work as patient’s kin ‘attack’ colleague

The attack, doctors claim, proved a catalyst to simmering resentment among healthcare staff about a host of issues, including being overworked and 'poor quality' PPE.

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Hyderabad: About 200 junior doctors of the state-run Gandhi General Hospital in Hyderabad have been staging a protest on the premises and boycotting duties since Tuesday night after one of their colleagues was allegedly assaulted by the relatives of a Covid-19 patient who died.

The hospital is the nodal facility for treating coronavirus patients in the state. 

The incident in question took place when a 55-year-old Covid-19 patient, admitted to the facility with his wife and son on 6 June, collapsed in the hospital toilet and died. The protesting doctors claimed he had been advised against leaving his bed.

After his death, his family allegedly attacked the doctor on duty inside the hospital’s Covid ward on the second floor. Doctors claim the family attacked their colleague with an iron chair.

The man’s son and brother-in-law have since been booked under relevant sections of the IPC, the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Telangana Medicare Services Institution Act, 2008. The Hyderabad deputy commissioner of police (north) confirmed the development.

The alleged attack, doctors claim, proved a catalyst to simmering resentment among healthcare staff about a host of issues, including being overworked and “poor quality” personal protective equipment (PPE).

While the protest was still underway at the time of filing this report, the doctors claimed the patients at the hospital haven’t been left unattended, with some of their colleagues tending to them. 

Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender is expected to visit the hospital to talk to the doctors, Dr Kizher Hussain, the general secretary of the Telangana Junior Doctors Association (T-JUDA), told ThePrint.

Meanwhile, the hospital administration said they were looking into the doctors’ concerns.

Also Read: Geo-mapping, CCTV cameras, AI — how Telangana Police is using tech to enforce Covid safety

‘Uncalled for’

Dr Hussain described Tuesday evening’s attack on the doctor as “uncalled for”.

“We are anyway overburdened and then we get beaten up for doing our duties,” he added. 

The patient, he said, was hypertensive, had severe respiratory issues and diabetes. His bed at the hospital had been equipped with a urine bag and he was advised not to move. 

“However, for reasons best known to him, he did, and collapsed,” he added, saying there was only one elderly ward boy around at the time while the doctor on duty had stepped aside to change into PPE.

Another junior doctor who claimed to have witnessed the incident said, “He (the doctor attacked) was only saved because the other staff and doctors that heard the noise came and locked the room.”

Dr Sridhar, one of the protesting doctors, said attendants of “patients are not allowed inside the Covid ward, but they don’t listen and keep visiting”. 

Several junior doctors that ThePrint spoke to said police entered the building 20 minutes after the incident occurred. 

Dr Nagarjuna, a member of the T-JUDA, said they wanted the health minister or the chief minister to visit them on the spot and address their concerns, which include deploying a special task force near every ICU, improved quality of PPE kits, and “decentralisation of Gandhi hospital”. 

“There are so many hospitals in Hyderabad but we are even getting cases of other districts here for Covid-19… As a result, we haven’t taken a break for the past three months… Why is the government not getting other hospitals to pitch in for Covid-19 cases as well?” he added.

The junior and resident doctors of the hospital started their protest around 9 pm Tuesday. They disbanded for a few hours at 3.30 am but reassembled outside the facility at 9 am Wednesday. By then, the dharna had also taken on the form of a ‘raasta roko’ campaign as protesters blocked the road outside the hospital. 

As dozens of doctors joined the protest, security was strengthened and police was deployed. Barricades were erected and vehicles other than ambulances, police vans and those of other essential services not allowed to cross the area. 

Several doctors at Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and RIMS, Adilabad, also staged protests in solidarity with their colleagues at Gandhi hospital. 

An intern on duty in the Gandhi hospital Covid ward, Dr Priya, said the hospital is understaffed. “Why don’t the politicians come and stand for a few hours in these PPE kits and then tell us how they are managing.”

Her colleague, Dr Deepti, added, “It’s a first of its kind situation with a pandemic like this, so why can’t the authorities also take extra measures for our protection and to contain the disease properly?”  

Dr R. Raja Rao, the superintendent of Gandhi Hospital, told ThePrint that the administration was “looking into the doctors’ concerns and have held meetings”. 

“Their demands will be addressed and we do care about their security as well,” he added, but denied allegations about the hospital being understaffed.

Also Read: Behind Telangana’s rising Covid numbers, low testing and violations of ICMR, HC orders


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