Five more doctors tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week in the national capital, taking the total to seven, and underscoring how leading the war against the virus from the front is coming at a huge personal cost for doctors and health workers who often operate with inadequate protective equipment.
All but one of these doctors work in government-run facilities. Two doctors, a couple that worked in two mohalla clinics in north-east Delhi, had tested positive earlier.
One of the doctors treated Covid-19 patients at Safdarjung hospital, home to at least 21 positive patients at present. Another two of the doctors – from the Delhi State Cancer Institute in Tahirpur and the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel hospital in west Delhi – were among the 23 people who tested positive on Tuesday.
“We have still not seen any proper PPE kits that can prevent droplet infections. We are using an HIV kit instead, which does not cover the body entirely. So, residents are using a scarf to cover the head, a towel to cover the neck, and N-95 masks along with them in the hope of preventing infection. This is dangerous, especially for those collecting throat swabs because patients tend to cough when the samples are collected,” said Dr Srinivas Rajkumar T, general secretary of the resident doctors’ association at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore to family members of health care workers who die treating Covid-19 patients. So far, there have been 120 cases and two deaths due to Covid-19 in the city.
The affected 35-year-old doctor from the Delhi State Cancer Institute worked in the department of preventive oncology and has been admitted to Baba Saheb Ambedkar hospital in Rohini, where he resides. The doctor’s wife and child have been admitted to Lok Nayak hospital near Delhi Gate on suspicion of having the disease.
The hospital had to suspend its out-patient clinics on Wednesday to sanitise the area.
“Yes, the OPD has been suspended in order to sanitise it. We cannot take the chance of spreading it to our patients. At the moment, we only have emergent cancer patients coming to the hospital, all of whom are immuno-compromised and at a greater risk of developing severe disease,” said Dr BL Sherwal, director, Delhi State Cancer Institute.
The hospital has been receiving around 100 to 150 people in its out-patient department since the nationwide lockdown. Usually, between 1,000 and 1,500 cancer patients visit the hospital clinics.
Another doctor to have tested positive is a 32-year-old paediatrician from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel hospital in East Patel Nagar. He was tested after his wife — a doctor from the biochemistry department at Safdarjung hospital — tested positive for the disease two days back.
Another of her colleagues — a 26-year-old man from the respiratory department — who treated Covid-19 patients at the hospital tested positive.
Apart from these, a doctor couple from Delhi’s mohalla clinics in north-east Delhi’s Maujpur and Baburpur area tested positive on March 21 and March 25. They and their daughter is also admitted to GTB hospital in Dilshad Garden after testing positive. The 49-year-old husband had contracted the disease from a 38-year-old woman who had returned from Saudi Arabia and is the index for a 10-person cluster.
Delhi’s integrated disease surveillance programme is tracing around 2,600 people who visited the two mohalla clinics.
Another 48-year-old doctor from west Delhi’s Hari Nagar tested positive for Covid-19 after providing home consultation to a person who had returned from New Zealand.