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Healthcare workers hold black ribbon protest against new quarantine

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Several hospitals have asked healthcare workers staying in hotels during the quarantine period to vacate rooms immediately failing which the charges paid for their overstay would be deducted from their salaries

Healthcare workers at several central and city government hospitals sported black armbands to protest the government’s decision to end the need for their quarantine after COVID-19 duty unless there has been any form of high-risk exposure.

Several hospitals in the last few days have asked their healthcare workers staying in hotels during the quarantine period to vacate rooms immediately failing which the charges paid for their overstay would be deducted from their salaries.

As per the Union Health Ministry guidelines issued on May 15, healthcare workers serving in COVID-19 areas do not need to undergo quarantine unless there has been violation in the use of PPE or any other form of high-risk exposure or they have symptoms suggestive of coronavirus infection.

However, healthcare workers on the frontline have raised objections to the new guidelines.

The Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) has called for the black ribbon protest to demand proper quarantine and testing for all healthcare workers on COVID-19 duty.

The FORDA had also written to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan seeking a revision of the guidelines stating the virus has an incubation period of 2-14 days following exposure and there are multiple instances of doctors testing positive for the disease following a second test or subsequently after that.

“Under the current situation, at least a seven-day quarantine, along with adequate testing of all doctors, after COVID-19 duty is necessary in order to prevent spread of infection among colleagues and their family members,” FORDA President, Dr Shivaji Dev Barman said.

“So far there has been no response from the authorities,” Dr Barman said.

Delhi’s Lady Hardinge Medical College had issued a circular stating hotel facility during post-duty period days in COVID and suspected COVID zones provided to healthcare workers are hereby withdrawn and “the occupants are directed to please vacate their rooms immediately.”

“If any overstay is noticed, charges paid for the overstay will have to be recovered from their salaries,” the circular said

There is no change in the instructions related to the HCWs, who are presently working with COVID-19 facilities and hotel accommodation will be available to those still on COVID-19 duties at the hospital, it said.

A similar circular was issued by the RML hospital administration also.

Resident Doctor’s Association of the Maulana Azad Medical College also did a black ribbon protest against the decision.

“As doctors we are never shy of doing our duties and are even proud to be at the frontline during this pandemic. But in response, the government is not providing quarantine to the healthcare workers. Some of our fellow doctors have come positive even on the 11th to 14th day. So, we appeal to the government to look into this and amend the quarantine order,” the RDA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the LNJP Hospital authorities, which had issued an order telling all quarantined healthcare workers to vacate hotels and other lodging facilities given to them, said the decision was on Thursday “put in abeyance” for a week, sources said.

A source said, “The RDA of the Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) submitted a representation to the hospital authorities, raising infeasibilities in complying with the order, like spreading infection to their family if healthcare workers leave the quarantine facility before the 14-day period.”

Previously, all healthcare personnel doing COVID-19 duty had to work for 14 days and it was then followed by a 2-week quarantine to ensure they didn’t spread the infection to anyone else. 

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