Helpline for Covid-19 nurses
The Supreme Court on Wednesday disposed of a petition from healthcare workers that complained the government wasn’t doing enough to protect them in the battle against Covid-19, after the Centre said it had opened 24x7 helplines and control rooms to address these grievances.
Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta said these measures had been adopted to deal with complaints such as the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for healthcare workers and their eviction by landlords.
The bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B.R. Gavai then asked the petitioner United Nurses Association — an all-India nurses’ body — to use these facilities to resolve their problems.
Among the hazards and difficulties for healthcare workers that the petition had cited were exposure to the pathogen (coronavirus), long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, social stigma and physical and psychological violence.
The petition said more than 50 healthcare workers — including both doctors and nurses — had tested positive for Covid-19 across the country.
Citing examples, it said nine doctors in Delhi and 10 nurses at Mumbai’s Wockhardt Hospital had been infected, and that almost all the 265 nurses in the Mumbai hospital were under observation.
It said at least 10 healthcare workers had resigned from Delhi’s Hindu Rao Hospital over the past few days citing the lack of PPE kits. Several government and private hospitals have shut down after some of their healthcare workers tested positive for Covid-19, it said.
The nurses’ association had sought the following directions:
⚫A national Covid-19 management protocol to address the risks posed to healthcare workers in the fight against the coronavirus.
⚫PPE kits for every healthcare professional working in the coronavirus isolation wards, or in close proximity with suspected Covid-19 patients.
⚫Adequate and nutritious meals and prompt transport for healthcare workers.
⚫Proper accommodation near their workplace for all nurses and other healthcare staff working in the Covid-19 wards.
⚫Proper screening of suspected patients before they enter the hospitals and clinics, and speedy testing
⚫Training for all healthcare workers in infection prevention and control, and in the proper use and disposal of PPE kits.
⚫Separate, hygienic washrooms for healthcare staff.
⚫Personal accident cover under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package for all health workers fighting Covid-19, even those “recruited on ad-hoc basis”.
⚫Safeguards against landlords evicting healthcare workers.
⚫Free testing and treatment for healthcare workers infected with Covid-19 while on duty, and care for their families while they are in quarantine or isolation.
⚫Safeguards against private hospitals charging the healthcare workers, or deducting their salaries, if they get infected with Covid-19 while on duty.