Mumbai's Wockhardt Hospital staffer: We have not been shown our reports and are being made to work

Updated: Apr 07, 2020, 08:08 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon, Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Over 200 health workers in Wockhardt Hospitals plead that they be tested again soon and all the staff and patients be shifted to another hospital

The BMC sealed Wockhardt Hospitals on Sunday evening. File pic
The BMC sealed Wockhardt Hospitals on Sunday evening. File pic

"My roommate tested positive for Coronavirus but the hospital says my report is negative. We are not being shown our reports and I have already developed a cough. I'm sure in the next couple of days I'll get the infection too, but currently I'm working," says a staffer of Wockhardt hospital, even as 52 staffers, including 46 nurses test positive for COVID-19. Raising concerns regarding their safety, several nurse associations have sent a list of demands to BMC chief Praveen Pardeshi.

Requesting anonymity, a nurse said, "Almost 90 per cent of the staff nurses at Wockhardt hail from Kerala. While most of them have a BSC nursing degree, some are freshers and the others are experienced. We have been working closely with the patients and have seen them develop the symptoms. When our immediate superiors ignored our concerns, we decided to speak out in the larger interest of our colleagues' safety."

Some of the nurses have been working at the first floor isolation ward, which was recently converted from the OPD section. Nine COVID-19 positive cases are admitted there, which include five patients from outside and four nurses.

The BMC sealed Wockhardt Hospital in SoBo on Sunday evening. File pic
The BMC sealed Wockhardt Hospital in SoBo on Sunday evening. File pic

When asked about the actual number of staff who have tested positive, the nurse said, "We have a total of 52 positive cases of which 46 are nurses. The rest are housekeeping staff and doctors. As the hospital does not have enough beds, the surgical and medical ICUs have been converted into isolation wards."

The nurse further said, "Most of the patients who were undergoing treatment for other ailments have been shifted to other nearby hospitals. After the BMC officials sealed the hospital last week, OPD and fresh admissions were stopped, Two days ago, two laboratory assistants even tested positive for COVID-19."

"At present, some of the HODs and administrative staff are with us in the hospital, while some nurses have been asked to undergo self-quarantine in their hostel rooms," added the nurse.

She further said, "We are getting exposed to those who have tested positive daily and we are sure of contracting the virus soon. The hospital is not giving us our reports. Some of the nurses have already developed symptoms like cough, fever and headache even though their reports are negative. They shared hostel rooms with those who tested positive and they continue to work, which is risky."

When asked about the condition of those who have tested positive, she said, "Only one nurse is very weak and continues to have high fever. She has been put on oxygen support as well. The other patients are stable and being monitored. We have only two demands – all the staff and patients who have tested positive should be shifted to another hospital and tests of those remaining should be conducted again and reports shared with them."

Speaking about the sudden spurt in cases, a hospital source said, "Nurses in Wockhardt are not assigned work based on a particular department. When the cardiac patient who was asymptomatic and had later tested positive was admitted at the hospital, around three to four nurses took care of him. These nurses were living with the other nurses at the Vile Parle hostel, which might be the reason why so many have tested positive," said a hospital source.

'We may shift soon'
Meanwhile, by late Monday afternoon, the staff were told that those who tested positive would be shifted to SevenHills Hospital in Marol and those who are asymptomatic would be shifted to PWD guest houses. The nurse added, "We have been told that once the entire hospital is empty, disinfectants will be sprayed and the ICU/OT will be fumigated."

Worried parents
When contacted, father of one of the staffers at the hospital spoke to mid-day from Thiruvananthapuram and said, "My daughter was excited about returning home after completing her service, but we are concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak in the hospital. She did not disclose much, but we know that the situation is grim. We request the hospital and Maharashtra health officials to provide them with the required treatment and care. We have already brought the matter to the notice of Kerala state health minister and even the Opposition leader. They have assured to do the needful after speaking to their counter parts in the Maharashtra government."

Rajesh Tope contacted
A message sent by Ramesh Chennithala, leader of opposition, Kerala, to Maharashtra state health minister, Rajesh Tope, reads, "Request you to provide best possible treatment to the nurses and all protective gear for work."

BMC reacts
When contacted, Dr Daksha Shah, deputy executive health officer, Health Department of BMC, said, "All preventive measures have been taken. We have 26 COVID-19 positive reports from the hospital and other reports are awaited. The hospital authorities have to take a call on whether to shift the positive patients to a different hospital. But I don't see any reason for them to be shifted as the hospital has COVID-19 isolation wards."

'Hospital is responsible'
Meanwhile, speaking to mid-day, Inayat Singh Kakar, a lawyer who is supporting the nurse associations said, "The hospital needs to be held accountable for their staff. Many of them are getting infected due to the negligent behaviour of the hospital administration and lack of protective equipment." Jibin TC of the United Nurses' Association of Maharashtra said that the nurses in the hospital were scared. "The hospital is conducting tests of the nurses but not showing them the reports. We have requested the hospital to do so. It needs to shift those who are in a serious condition for treatment elsewhere," he added.

Wockhardt Hospitals says

"It is the hard truth that healthcare professionals all over the world on the frontline are at the highest risk of contracting the COVID-19 infection whilst treating patients. Unfortunately, several of our healthcare professionals have tested positive for COVID-19 at our South Mumbai facility. The well being of our colleagues is of paramount importance and we are doing all we can to help them in the situation.

The hospital adheres to the highest global standards of infection and quality control. The source of the infection has been identified as a 70-year-old patient who was admitted to the hospital on March 17 for a cardiac emergency. The patient was asymptomatic. On March 26, the patient developed cough, and was tested for COVID-19, which turned out positive. The hospital staff were unknowingly exposed to the infection in the time period. We are informing the healthcare sector at large not to be misled by asymptomatic patients.

Our colleague nurses and the doctors identified as COVID-19 positive are presently being treated. The hospital has been declared a containment zone by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and we are closely working with the authorities. As per the BMC protocol, the hospital has been keeping all authorities informed on a daily basis about the COVID developments within the hospital since the first patient tested positive.

Since April 1 we are following the containment protocol as laid out by the BMC. We have tested all those within the hospital and are treating the positive patients, quarantining the primary contacts of the infected and terminally cleaning the facility to contain the contagion with full support of the BMC as per their guidance.

The current COVID-19 pandemic puts healthcare professionals at the highest risk of exposure all over the world. In a lockdown situation, information is a casualty too, and there may be many rumours floating around. We request all concerned to exercise caution and not spread misinformation that can lead to panic.

The hospital management is accessible to address queries that media personnel may have. We request the larger public not to stigmatise healthcare professionals as they operate under high risk and are selflessly serving the community.

The hospital cares deeply about our patients, our people and the community at large.

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