- Mumbai's civic hospitals are facing 50% staff shortage, say officials
- Absence of nurses, ward boys severely hampered work at Mumbai hospitals
- Mumbai alone has reported more than 47,000 cases
Nurses and ward boys MIA from Mumbai's civic hospitals will be fired if they do not report to work tomorrow, civic body BMC has warned. A memo naming absentee staff was released by the BMC, or the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, as the three-day notice period ended for hundreds of employees refusing to show up for work.
The absenteeism of class 3 and class 4 employees has severely hampered care for patients of the coronavirus disease at city's various civic-run hospitals, including the COVID-19-only King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital where a large number of patients are in a critical condition.
"COVID-19 wards are special wards, which need at least one nurse manning four beds. So, we need at least 10 nurses in a COVID-19 ward with 40 beds. Right now, we only have two nurses for the entire ward. Sometimes we have one ward boy and sometimes none," a doctor at the KEM Hospital told NDTV.
According to officials, over half the nurses and class four employees are not reporting for duty.
"The most severe shortage is of Class 4 employees (ward boys and attendants who lift bodies). Many workers have not been coming to work because of fear of the disease as proper safety kits have not been given in non-coronavirus wards," a senior official of the Maharashtra Medical Council said.
An association of nursing staff condemned the absenteeism, but reiterated the demand for shorter shifts and good quality personal protection equipment even in non-Covid wards.
"Not returning to work even after 72-hour notice period is not acceptable. Secondly, the medical and nursing administration, both, have to provide a healthy work environment with focus on safety and care for nurses if they get infected. PPE is must in non-Ccovid wards and many nurses have reported that they have got infected in non-Covid wards. Proper on-duty meals and water facilities are a must; staff may be charged a nominal fee, if required and no one should be forced to spend more than four-six hours in PPE kits," Dr Swati Rane, vice-president of Clinical Nursing and Research Society said.
On Monday, nurses said some of their colleagues who are in quarantine have also been named in the list of absentee employees.
The administration has assured that action will not be initiated against nurses in quarantine.
The municipal corporation first issued the notice after doctors at the KEM Hospital released a video saying COVID-19 deaths might increase if nurses did not return to work.
The week-old video showed how three doctors of the hospital were struggling to care for 35 critically-ill coronavirus patients in absence of nurses and ward boys.
While some nurses returned to work the same day after the Dean assured them that a separate ward for treatment of healthcare workers was under construction, majority stayed away.
Mumbai alone has reported more than 47,000 cases of the coronavirus disease with 1,575 deaths - the highest number of cases and deaths for any city in the country.