The Union health ministry on Thursday asked the states to ensure that doctors and other healthcare workers on Covid-19 duty received their full salaries on time, citing a Supreme Court order relating to pay cuts and delays in several states.
Health secretary Preeti Sudan’s letter asked the chief secretaries to ensure compliance and punish any defaulting hospital or institution under the Disaster Management Act.
The Supreme Court had on Wednesday asked the Centre to write to the states in response to a petition a doctor had moved in April citing the salary problems faced by healthcare workers.
Resident doctors and interns in some municipal hospitals in Mumbai and Delhi have in recent weeks complained of salary delays, said Mohit Paul, a member of the petitioner’s legal team. He said anecdotal accounts suggested that healthcare workers had not been paid in other states too.
“The health ministry order to chief secretaries should apply to both government and private hospitals,” said K.V. Viswanathan, a senior advocate in the Supreme Court who represented the petitioner.
A senior executive who represents private hospitals said some private hospitals had had to lower the salaries of doctors, nurses and paramedical and support staff to be able to operate amid sharp falls in revenue.
Government and private hospitals across the country have been witnessing fewer footfalls at their outpatient departments since the government earlier this year discouraged OPD visits and asked doctors to postpone elective surgeries to prepare hospitals for the growing coronavirus epidemic.
The petition from Arushi Jain, a postgraduate resident doctor in Udaipur, had requested the apex court to ensure that healthcare workers on Covid-19 duty received adequate personal protective equipment, their full salaries and temporary accommodation.
India on Thursday recorded 12,881 fresh Covid-19 cases, yet another highest-ever overnight increase, raising the number of confirmed cases to 366,946, among whom 160,384 are under medical supervision, 194,325 have recovered and 12,237 have died.
Public health specialists say they had foreseen the continued exponential growth.
“We need a robust nationwide surveillance system to detect patients early,” said Oomen John, a public health expert at The George Institute for Global Health, New Delhi. “The epidemic in some places is reaching alarming proportions — our healthcare system will be strained.”
The health ministry on Thursday said 7,390 patients had recovered over the past 24 hours and that the country’s overall recovery rate had risen to 52.96 per cent.
More than 950 government and private labs across India are now offering Covid-19 diagnostic tests.
These labs collectively screened 165,412 samples over the past 24 hours, the ministry said. The number of samples tested in India since the start of the outbreak is 6,249,668.