As hero Kerala doctors finish stint in Mumbai, BMC yet to pay them

Updated: Jul 15, 2020, 07:47 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Some doctors and many nurses who are not so well off say that they will have trouble paying the daily quarantine charges back home after 45-day stint in city; civic body blames technical glitch

Some of the doctors and nurses who volunteered to help Mumbai doctors, have returned home
Some of the doctors and nurses who volunteered to help Mumbai doctors, have returned home

A month-and-a-half after their arrival, the second batch of Kerala doctors and nurses, who had volunteered to assist the medical teams at SevenHills Hospital in the fight against COVID-19, will soon return home in batches. But they have not been paid for their services. While a doctor was told the delay in salary is due to a technical glitch at the BMC HQ, a civic official said procedures have been followed and "files have been cleared".

The dean of Seven Hills Hospital has also said that the salary will be credited to the doctors bank accounts within two to three days.

On Tuesday, merely two days before this second batch of doctors was to leave, they received their appointment-cum-contract letter, confirming two months of service. The teams are to leave on July 16 and July 19. mid-day had also reported on July 3 that the Kerala doctors and nurses had begun returning a month before their tenure citing issues such as over proper deployment, no requirement for more doctors and a stint plagued by disparate expectations, 'Kerala docs make abrupt exit from city'.

A doctor from Kerala said some of the staff nurses have been paid, but none of the doctors have been paid as yet, especially not the junior doctors
A doctor from Kerala said some of the staff nurses have been paid, but none of the doctors have been paid as yet, especially not the junior doctors

A doctor from the Kerala team said, "Some of us have received the appointment letter, almost 45 days after our service here. Some of the staff nurses have been paid, but none of the doctors have been paid as yet, especially not the junior doctors, who are in need of cash to meet their daily expenses. Some of them had to borrow money to get their air tickets to come to Mumbai and it was assured that all our travel expenses would be reimbursed, but unfortunately, nothing has come so far."

"We have been told that the salary is delayed due to some technical glitch at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) HQ level and that it will be sorted out soon. Most of the doctors will leave by July 19, and we are hoping that something will be done before that," the doctor added.

Another issue
"The main problem we are facing now, is a place for quarantine in Kerala, on our return. Since cases are on the rise in Kerala, the free government quarantine is almost full and paid quarantine centres charge anywhere between R1,500 to R3,000 per day. We are expected to be in quarantine for 14 days and nobody has enough money to pay for the private quarantine, nor has the Kerala government given any assurance on this," explained a senior doctor.

Another senior physician from the group, added, "Most of the doctors who volunteered for the cause 'Mission Mumbai' are either MBBS graduates, who were working with some nursing homes or private hospitals and had taken leave from work, or were senior postgraduates, who worked as intensivists, and were allowed leave. Most of the doctors worked for seven weeks round the week without taking leave, so that they could adjust their holidays and quarantine period of 14 days in Kerala and accordingly complete the two months contract."

An intensivist who is part of the team added, "I work for a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, but unlike Mumbai, in Kerala many patients fear coming to the hospital, unless there was an emergency. This resulted in a drastic drop in patient inflow and therefore the management announced a pay cut of almost 30 percent in our monthly salary. So I decided to take up this opportunity of serving patients in Mumbai and saving their lives, as the cases here are severe and doctors limited."

The experience
When asked to recall his experience in Seven Hills, the doctor added, "We were manning the 20-bedded ICU facility which was set up by our Kerala team. Patients with acute respiratory distress and comorbid conditions would be admitted for five to 10 days. A policeman was under our care, and we received phone calls almost every day from all senior police officers inquiring about his health and response to treatment. We tried our level best but could not save his life, and we feel sorry, when we put our best efforts, but do not succeed."

A female doctor who is in quarantine in Kerala, and was part of Mission Mumbai, added, "Fortunately, I was in the ICU, where the in charge senior doctor was very down to earth and helpful by nature. I spent a month at Seven Hills and later returned to Kerala. My mother only allowed me because I said I will be back after a month."

Talking about the salary she said, "I am sure they (BMC) might have had some issues, COVID-19 has affected everyone financially. I am sure that we will get our salary soon. I am not worried, because I have worked with the Mumbai doctors and they are very professional and helpful by nature."

Dr Santosh Kumar, Deputy Superintendent, Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, who is also Associate Professor of Orthopaedics at the college, and was instrumental in getting the team from Kerala to Mumbai, is also in home quarantine. He said that some of the nurses, and doctors, who joined him voluntarily, were not from a strong financial set up. "I have requested the concerned doctors and administrative staff at Seven Hills and have been told that the payment needs to be released from the BMC HQ and that it will be done soon. But unfortunately it has not come so far."

Dr Santosh added, "The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has sent a letter to Kerala Chief Minister, which was dated June 22, but reached only on July 3, wherein he has lauded our work and asked for more doctors and nurses from the Kerala government to assist in fighting the pandemic. The Kerala CM has sent a reply, asking for the number of doctors, intensivists and nurses required, and I learnt that a revert from Maharashtra CM, is awaited."

Asked if the Kerala team of doctors, given a chance would still visit Mumbai, Dr Santosh said they would.

Issue resolved?
"All the BMC administrative procedures for clearing salary have been obtained, and it will be credited to their bank accounts within two to three days. Their experience certificate and certificate of appreciation will also be given to them before they leave," said Dr Balkrishna Adsul, dean of Seven Hills Hospital.

A senior BMC official said, "We had to obtain special permission from the civic commissioner, as this is a special case, and needed his permission to avoid any future audit query. We have now followed all procedures and files have been cleared, accordingly."

75
No. of docs, nurses who came from Kerala to help

June 1
When they began helping at the Seven Hills Hospital

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