Overworked assistant professors of general medicine in Tiruvannamalai write to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister

 thehindu.com  09/16/2020 11:44:19 

After being posted on 84 hours of duty in a week, assistant professors of the Department of General Medicine, Government Tiruvannamalai Medical College Hospital have flagged their concerns on long hours of work for COVID-19 management and repeated exposure to COVID-19, with the Chief Minister and officials of the Health Department.

In a representation to the Chief Ministers Special Cell, Health Secretary and Directorate of Medical Education, assistant professors of General Medicine said they were facing mental agony due to repeated exposure to COVID-19 with the work burden not being shared by other departments, primarily the anaesthesia department. The issue remained unresolved despite repeated representations to the dean, they alleged.

Anaesthetists were posted only on on-call duty for managing sick COVID-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit instead of regular COVID-19 duty. As per Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines, anaesthetists, respiratory physicians and doctors of general medicine are the primary care providers in COVID-19 management. But at Tiruvannamalai Medical College Hospital, anaesthetists are not posted on regular duty at COVID-19 isolation wards and ICU care. They should be at least posted at the ICU. As a result, COVID-19 patients are not receiving proper intensive care -- oxygen and ventilatory support, a doctor, on condition of anonymity, said.

They added in the representation that instead, an additional burden was imposed on them recently by way of inhumane 84 hours of duty per week, which is 12 hours of work per day -- in the Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) ward. As per the recent roster, two assistant professors of general medicine had to work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day for a week. Earlier, two assistant professors covered the SARI ward and isolation ward in two six-hour shifts, and now, two more assistant professors were additionally posted at the SARI ward alone in the 12-hour shift system. They had to wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) during their shift with a lot of hardship, they said.

The doctors charged the hospital administration of compelling physicians to work on 24-hour duty shifts and to take care of patients in the general and emergency wards other than COVID-19 wards, making them go on rounds in the SARI ward that could lead to a spread of infections. Already, two of the assistant professors were infected with COVID-19, they said.

They sought the Chief Ministers immediate intervention to resolve the issues at the hospital and improve patient care as cases were rising in the district.

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