As India goes into a three-week lockdown to keep a handle on the growing cases of the novel coronavirus, a new problem that could potentially derail the country’s efforts has emerged.
Doctors and healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic are being evicted from their homes by their landlords.
Various reports of doctors and other medical professionals being forced out of their houses by landlords have emerged in the past few days. The landlords fear that the healthcare workers are prone to infection by the novel coronavirus as they work on the frontlines.
This has left evicted doctors and healthcare workers in the lurch. The country’s premier medical institution – the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) – reports that healthcare professionals have been stranded on roads with their luggage across the country.
In a letter to home minister Amit Shah and other government officials, Dr. Adarsh Pratap Singh, the President of the Resident Doctors’ Association of AIIMS wrote:
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers involved in Covid care are being asked to vacate their rented homes and some have been even forcefully evicted from their temporary residence by landlords and house-owners due to the fear that those healthcare professionals make them susceptible to coronavirus infection.
The letter also added that “many doctors are now stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country.”
The letter also highlighted the problem of transportation that doctors are facing. The 21-day lockdown means that public transport will be severely limited. As a result, healthcare professionals are facing difficulties in reaching hospitals and going back to their homes.
India’s doctor-patient ratio stands at one doctor for every 1,445 citizes, according to data from the government of India. That’s lower than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) prescribed ratio of one doctor for every 1,000 people. Putting doctors out of their homes will put further strain on the existing medical workforce as they will lose morale, hurting India’s fight against the novel coronavirus.
Another big chink in India’s healthcare system is the lack of hospital beds. According to World Bank data , India had just 0.7 hospital beds per 1,000 people. That’s much lower than the global average of 2.705 beds for every one thousand.
As India rushes to put more hospital beds into place in its fight against novel coronavirus, the authorities need to ensure that medical workers on the frontline are not inconvenienced. The good news is that the doctors’ appeal to the government has led the country’s ministers to swing into action.
India’s health minister has taken note of the problem doctors and paramedics are facing in their fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. He even made it clear that they have been taking all the steps to ensure that they don’t become carriers of the novel coronavirus.
The home minister has reportedly directed the police to ensure that immediate action is taken against those landlords putting doctors in a tough situation during this time. Such measures from the government should go a long way in boosting confidence among doctors, and that’s necessary as India needs to flatten the infection curve as soon as possible.
The past couple of days have shown a glimmer of hope that India may be able to keep a handle on things after facing initial hiccups such as weak testing rates. The infection growth curve took a dip on March 24, and a successful lockdown by authorities as well as the efforts of medical workers could go a long way in breaking the chain of the spread.