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Bihar: Medical Interns Reveal How Lack Of Protective Gear Is Putting Their Lives At Risk

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Recently, the news came out from Bhagalpur, Bihar, that the interns at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital are complaining that they are not provided with protective equipment to deal with patients of COVID-19. However, Principal Dr Hemant Kumar has said that the administration is trying to do all they can.

Here’s what the interns have said:

We, the interns of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, Bhagalpur, bring to your attention some serious blunders being done by the Bihar government, regarding the handling of COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you would become our voice as nobody is ready to listen to us and our lives are at stake.

If this infection is transmitted to even one of the interns, it will eventually pass on to all the hostels and further to patients who are not infected. Despite this fact and proper safety guidelines on paper, nothing is being done on the ground. We are already admitting 8–9 suspects already each day at our own health risk, but the administration wants us to continue without protection.

A Covid-19 positive patient’s family was sent home yesterday and asked to self-isolate. Now, due to the lack of education, people are refusing to self-isolate. There are no measures in place to trace these patients and to ensure that they are staying at home. The police, too, is doing nothing to punish those who are violating the lockdown, let aside the quarantined patients.

The number of testing kits available in Bihar is inadequate. Doctors are using disposable HIV protection gears to examine patients in Patna. They don’t even have sanitizers or spirits. They are buying their own masks and gloves.

The doctors of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Bhagalpur, were denied N95 masks and PPEs in Emergency duties by Dr RC Mandal who later forced the interns to work amidst the same conditions. When the interns denied, he threatened to terminate their internship or extend the duration of their internship.

Frequently, they are coming in contact with at least 8–10 suspected COVID patients. Annexed is the a) demand application by the interns b) notice issued by the Superintendent, JLNMCH and the guidelines issued by MOH and FW that it violates:

Upon request of van/bus for female interns amidst the lockdown since the hostels are far away, the Superintendent denied saying he can’t provide us with the same.

Here’s what Dr Hemnat Kumar, Principle, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, said on the whole matter:

“The students are afraid due to Corona. The ICMR guidelines do not say that interns need N-95 kit. However, the administration has ordered N-95 masks.”

When we spoke to another representative, he told us that the hospital is asymptomatic, i.e., no one has a cough or symptoms like that and claimed that the current equipment is adequate for the situation.

As per the news, just 9 positive cases are there in Bihar so far. The truth is that the numbers are much more. But due to the lack of screening and contact tracing, we aren’t able to identify the numbers.

The patient who died was from Munger. He had a travel history to Qatar. The doctors examined him anyway, but his COVID-19 reports arrived after his death. If this act of ignoring safety protocols continues, we would be left with no doctors to examine additional patients once we reach stage 3 of the pandemic.

As many as 83 junior doctors of the NMCH in Patna, which has been designated as the State’s first COVID-19 special hospital, have written to their superintendent seeking a 15-day home quarantine. Image source: The Hindu

There are only three hospitals in Patna that are dealing with these cases. AIIMS, IGIMS, PMCH. However, these hospitals don’t have the resources to deal with coronavirus patients. The doctors don’t have proper protective gears. People are being denied treatment. Doctors are examining patients risking their own lives and also becoming a potential source for community transmission.

NMCH recently emptied its ward to become a COVID-19 hospital; yet, no protective gears are available there too. About 83 doctors are quarantined from NMCH, Patna—because they dealt with suspected cases without protective equipment.

The whole state relies on only one testing centre that is Rajendra Memorial Research Institute, Patna, for the sample testing that creates a delay in diagnosis and treatment further. At the end, we request the government to please do something for Bihar. We do not wish this pandemic to wipe out the state.

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