India hospital shuts after surge in coronavirus cases among staff

Hospital in Mumbai declared a ‘containment zone’ after 26 nurses and three doctors test positive for coronavirus.

A policeman walks inside a shelter set up for migrants during a 21-day nationwide lockdown in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]
A policeman walks inside a shelter set up for migrants during a 21-day nationwide lockdown in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

A major private hospital in Mumbai has been closed to new patients and declared a coronavirus containment zone after 26 nurses and three doctors tested positive, an official has said.

Since the virus hit India – which has been under lockdown since March 25 with 109 deaths related to COVID-19 so far – medical workers have complained about not being given adequate protective gear.

Mumbai city authority spokesman Vijay Khabale-Patil told AFP news agency on Monday that the Wockhardt Hospital has been declared a “containment zone” after the cases were confirmed.

“Three hundred staffers have been quarantined and the hospital is shut,” he told AFP.

Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam said no one is allowed to enter or exit the facility in Mumbai until all of the patients in there test negative for the coronavirus twice.

“There are nearly 300 patients and nurses who will be tested … and that is one less facility, in the state with the highest number of cases and deaths, which is fully functioning,” Puranam said.

The United Nurses Association (UNA) in Mumbai accused hospital management of failing to protect staff by refusing to let them wear appropriate safety gear.

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“They told the medical staffers to wear simple [surgical] masks … and attend to the patient,” said Akash S. Pillai, UNA general secretary for Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

“They were thinking that if the staff wore protective gear, family members of COVID-19 patients would get scared,” he told AFP.

“Many well-known hospitals in Mumbai and Pune are putting their staffers through the same risks,” he said.

He added that Wockhardt waited too long to carry out tests on its staff, thereby increasing the possibility for infections to spread.

India has so far reported more than 4,000 coronavirus cases.

But experts caution the real numbers are likely to be far higher, with the country carrying out little testing of its 1.3 billion population compared to many other countries.

Mumbai, home to 12.5 million people according to the 2011 census, has so far confirmed 458 cases, including five in the Dharavi area, home to one of Asia’s biggest slums, and 30 deaths.

Puranam said the infections in the Dharavi slum were a huge concern as more than a million people were living there in close proximity, many without full access to basic sanitation.

She added that another concern was the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

“A number of doctors resigned in Delhi citing the lack of personal protection equipment. We’ve seen reports of doctors in West Bengal, and other places in fact, being given raincoats and sunglasses to wear while they’re treating patients with the virus,” Puranam reported.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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