COVID-19 impact: Now, 20 Mumbai doctors allege that their dues not paid
Not only were these GPs forced to suspend private practice, they were also threatened with action under the Epidemic Diseases Act
Since the past few weeks, around 20 general practitioners (GP) who studied BAMS and MBBS and were asked to assist doctors at the dedicated COVID Care Centre at NSCI Dome, have been running from pillar to post to get their payments cleared.
Most of the doctors served for 15 days and some for one month. Their stints ended between the third week of May and the first week of June. Most of the doctors were running private clinics in Byculla, Worli, Dadar and neighbouring areas.
They are now ruing the absence of payments especially since the letter from the administration warned them that if they failed to report to work, action would be initiated against them under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Indian Penal Code. The doctors had shuttered their clinics for the time they worked at the COVID centre.
Recovered patients leave NSCI COVID Care Cente. Pic/Bipin Kokate
'Had no option but to accept'
One of the 20 GPs told mid-day, "We had no option but to accept the directive to work at the COVID centre at NSCI Dome to avoid hassles, including cancellation of licences. Moreover, the number of COVID patients was also very high."
The doctor added, "Some of us were MBBS and a few were BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery). The remuneration, was around R80,000 for MBBS and between R50,000 and R60,000 for BAMS doctors, depending on work experience. And most of them earned a similar amount at their clinics."
NSCI has 518 ordinary beds and 10 ICU beds. On July 22, nearly 300 COVID-19 patients were under treatment at the centre and ICU beds were fully occupied. The number of beds is likely to be increased in the coming days, informed sources within the centre.
Most GPs, who have resumed their routine clinical practice, have visited the local ward office (G South) to enquire about their payment.
"I have 10 years of clinical experience and I had to close my clinic for a month during my work at NSCI. We were allowed to stay at a hostel inside NSCI and my duty was to conduct basic health screening (checking BP, oxygen saturation level, etc) of COVID-19 patients, fill discharge papers, and counsel those getting discharged," another doctor said on condition of anonymity.
Another doctor added, "I feel the authorities could have streamlined the process better, to avoid any hardship to us. The ward office told me initially that they did not even have our details. After we spoke to higher authorities and the DMER, we were asked to submit our bank details and a crossed cheque, which we did a week ago. Still, the money has not come."
'Experience was good'
Another doctor said, "I could not even meet my children during my work at the COVID centre. I was in home quarantine after I returned a month later. My family had to take care of all the responsibilities. And with my private practice shut, my regular patients were also concerned. However, the experience at NSCI was very good."
The doctors continue to take precautions such as social distancing, wearing a mask and checking people's temperature and oxygen saturation before examining them.
The other side
Dr Rajeev Joshi, dean of the NSCI COVID Care Centre, said, "I am at NSCI since June 6 and some doctors were hired prior to me taking charge. Remaining were directly hired by me."
"We had some doctors (BAMS/MBBS) directly sent by the DMER (Directorate of Medical Education and Research) and they worked for a short duration of 15 days. Others who were willing to continue for 25 days to a month were allowed to stay and were given certificates after working for 25 days and more," Dr Joshi said.
With regard to the payments, Dr Joshi said, "It might be a small number as the process of generating vendor codes and other payment formalities is still underway and all payments are done through bank transfers. We will look into the grievances of the doctors and help them resolve this at the earliest if they approach me personally."
Dr T P Lahane, Director, DMER, who is also the State's nodal officer, for COVID-19, confirmed that a few doctors were sent by DMER to NSCI to work for 15 days and that their payments will be cleared in a few days. The doctors who worked for more than 15 days were roped in by the BMC.
Approximate payment offered to MBBS doctors
No. of ICU beds at the NSCI COVID Care Centre
No. of ordinary beds at NSCI centre
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