The Indian Medical Association says 99 private practitioners have succumbed to COVID-19 in the country

Published : July 18, 2020 18:36 IST

Medical staff protest against the inadequate supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) at Howrah Orthopedic Hospital in Howrah, West Bengal, on April 16. Photo: PTI

The Indian Medical Association has said that 1,302 doctors have been infected by COVID-19 in the country in the private sector and at least 99 of them have succumbed to the disease. The case fatality rate, it says, is a “significant” 8 per cent. The IMA has created a National COVID Registry to document infections among health-care workers, but it only documents private practitioners; so the actual number of doctors affected will be higher.

The registry shows that 74 per cent of the fatalities were in the 50-plus years age group while 19 per cent was in the 35 to 50 years age group. The under-35 years group had seven fatalities. Maharashtra had the highest number of fatalities among doctors at 20 per cent. Of the 1,302 infected with the Coronavirus, 586 were private consultants, 566 resident doctors and 150 were house surgeons.

This has brought up the issue of personal protection equipment (PPEs) again. The availability and distribution of PPEs need to be streamlined and the pricing rationalised. A private medical practioner told Frontline that only the material used for PPEs was standardised and checked, but the whole kit was not. Responding to the poor supply of PPEs, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said he has written to the Department of Consumer Affairs requesting it to put masks and sanitisers on the list of essential items once again.

The high number of infections within the profession does not highlight just the vulnerability of doctors but also brings to light the fact that many hospitals were coerced into becoming COVID centres without ensuring that they had the adequate resources. The doctors in these private hospitals are not eligible for the insurance cover that the Centre offers for those in the government’s employ.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has also released some statistics of public and private hospitals, and says that more than 1,000 health-care workers have been affected in Mumbai. KEM and Sion hospitals, both government hospitals in the city, are working under tremendous pressure. They are overburdened and under-staffed, with the result that more than 300 staff in both hospitals have been infected. Nine doctors in the city have succumbed to COVID-19.