Gandhi Hospital may be identified as a ‘Centre of Excellence for COVID Care’ but niggling issues continue to hamper its reputation. Complaints have surfaced of COVID patients on oxygen support waiting for hours on end for their soiled diapers to be changed, leading to embarrassment.

There are around 100 patient care providers at the hospital who are divided into batches to work three shifts a day. Around 30 of them per shift have to attend patients on oxygen support. As on Sunday, there were 438 patients at the hospital who were on oxygen or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) support.

Patients and their attendants have put forth the issue before authorities for redressal. Doctors and staff opine more patient care providers are needed to address the issue at the earliest as existing patients are in distress and the situation will take a turn for the worse as cases are increasing.

Only patients with moderate to severe form of COVID are admitted at Gandhi Hospital. Doctors said patients on oxygen support should not move away from the bed for using bathrooms or any other purpose as they may collapse leading to other injuries as it had happened on a few occasions.

Heavy workload

Urine bags are attached to beds, and diapers are provided so that patients don’t get off the beds. “The diapers have to be changed every time it is soiled. We change it at least twice at the start and end of our shift. But this is not the only task. We have to make their beds and feed the elderly patients. How can 20 patient care providers attend more than 400 patients,” a patient care provider asked.

Doctors said every day they get requests from patients for a patient care provider. “Picture this: an adult who was able to walk around and do their work until a few days ago falls so sick that they need someone has to change their diapers. Now imagine them being in bed with soiled, smelly diapers for long hours, shouting for help. They direct their frustration at doctors and nurses, and complain to their family members. The current staff cannot attend all patients as they are insufficient in numbers,” said a doctor who has been attending COVID patients since March.

‘Attract with incentives’

The doctors said that there is a definite need for more staff who can attend such duties. “People are hesitating to join duty at Gandhi Hospital because of stigma attached to COVID patients. This, despite our appeals which are clearly not working. Attractive salary along with daily incentives, and assurance that all safety gear will be provided might help in recruiting more people for the job,” sources at the hospital said.

Doctors said that though hundreds of patients in critical condition were being discharged from Gandhi Hospital after full recovery, the above issues were overshadowing their good work. “COVID patients with cancer, cardiac issues and other serious complications have recovered at this government hospital. All those patients thank us. But people do not get to know about it,” another doctor rued.

Salary hike demand

A revolting stench penetrates their double masks and hits their nostrils as they change the soiled diapers of patients on oxygen support. This is the everyday story of patient care providers at the Gandhi Hospital here. Apart from this duty, they have to clean the beds of patients and feed them too.

“We sweat profusely while working in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and change gloves frequently. Wearing the PPEs, we have to hold plate in one hand and feed the patient with the other hand. We get requests from multiple patients to change their diapers. Though we do all this work, we are paid only ₹9,500 per month,” said a patient care provider at the State-run hospital.

These caregivers have been working at the hospital for the past five to 10 years. Since it is a contractual job, after cuts, they get ₹8,400 in hand a month. If they take leave apart from four weekly offs, ₹300 is deducted per day. “This work is tough and unpleasant. A lot of our colleagues have quit which officials know about. Whoever has left is ready to return to work. But we appeal to authorities to hike our salary to ₹18,000 per month and regularise our jobs,” another care provider said.

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