How PM Modi can reduce shortage of medical personnel to serve in COVID-19 ICUs

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Consortia representing the private healthcare sector suggest ways to rope in post graduate medical students, interns, foreign medical graduates, final year nurses and technicians, to serve in COVID-19 ICUs

In a letter to the PMO, the newly formed consortia representing the private healthcare sector have suggested ways to incentivise post graduate medical students appearing for the NEET exams, interns, foreign medical graduates, final year nurses and technicians, to serve in COVID-19 ICUs with a combination of stipends and grace marks for future qualification exams.

Along with making available of additional manpower the note to the PLO also points out that there is also a necessity to increase/ add-on the existing infrastructure of oxygen beds, ICU beds [with and without ventilators] and ensuring uninterrupted oxygen and medicine supplies.

The letter also requested that the Government provide appropriate insurance coverage to all healthcare professionals engaged in overcoming COVID-19.

The letter specified that the allotment of the additional manpower thus created is to be managed by the Government and appropriately distributed to the Governmental and private set-ups managing COVID-19.

The letter posits that if these suggestions are implemented immediately with necessary administrative requirements, it will ‘instantaneously increase the number of medical, nursing and technical manpower in the country and thereby effectively enable healthcare professionals to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.’

The letter from the National Working Group on COVID, consisting of industry leaders of IMA, ASSOCHAM, CII, FICCI, NATHEALTH and AHPI, details the impact of the second wave of the COVID -19 pandemic which is exerting immense pressure on the infrastructure, manpower and management of the healthcare system across the country, ‘almost to the breaking point, and which could become catastrophic.’

According to the letter, at present, the country has only 75,000 -95,000 ICU beds which are already full, though the pandemic is yet to reach the peak.

Every day nearly 3, 00,000 people are getting tested positive and every positive patient amount to five more patients being positive but not tested.

Assuming about 5 per cent of the COVID-19 positive patients need an ICU bed, the letter states that there is a need for least 50,000 new ICU beds every day for the next 4 -5 months.

Making the point further, the letter points out that at least 3 lakh nurses and paramedics and between 1.5 -2 lakhs junior doctors, will be needed to staff the additional required facilities of 2 lakh ICU beds. The current pandemic is expected to last at least 4-5 months with waves to occur thereafter.

Detailed suggestions

The letter suggests that the NEET Postgraduate examination, for which approximately 1.7 lakh students appear every year, could be conducted online, and the results announced immediately so that those who are not selected, can be provided with an opportunity to serve in COVID-19 ICUs. They can be incentivised by providing significant grace marks to be considered for the subsequent PG NEET examination.

Likewise, interns who opt to work for 1 year in the COVID-19 ICUs, may similarly be provided significant grace marks while appearing for the post graduate NEET examination.

The consortia’s letter suggests that Foreign Medical Graduates who are yet to pass the Foreign Medical Graduates (FMG) Examination, could be given an opportunity to work in the COVID-19 ICUs for one year and incentivised by exemption from the FMG Examination and directly enrolled under the State Medical Council.

The letter specifies that all three above categories of medical students should be ‘appropriately compensated.’

To meet the corresponding need for nursing and technicians, the letter suggests that final year nurses and technicians opting to work in COVID-19 ICUs can be utilised to work in hospitals with an attractive stipend. According to the letter, this has been successfully done in Haryana.

Also, these nurses and paramedics can be given significant grace marks when applying for PG and also preference for selection for future Government jobs.

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