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Health Min Ends Mandatory COVID-19 Testing for Health Workers

Healthcare workers in Delhi’s Safdarjung and RML hospitals were denied quarantine facilities and COVID-19 tests.

Updated
Coronavirus
2 min read
Health Min Ends Mandatory COVID-19 Testing for Health Workers
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The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued a circular on 15 May, which said that the regular quarantine of healthcare workers working in COVID-19 duty is not required.

The quiet order came to light when doctors in Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital were denied quarantine facilities and COVID-19 tests, reported The National Herald.

According to the report, doctors from RML were ordered to leave their quarantine facility even if their 14-day stint was not over.

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According to the Herald, on 14 May in Safdarjung Hospital when nursing superintendent, Rekha Rai wrote to Medical superintendent Dr Balvinder Singh to authorise screenings for 114 nurses post their 14-day duty in a COVID-19 ward Dr Singh refused. He allegedly said that there was no need to test the nurses and they could self-quarantine instead.

On May 18, healthcare workers from RML were ordered to evacuate the hotels where they were being quarantined. They were threatened by the hospital to leave immediately or risk having the rent of the hotel cut from their salary, reported The Herald. Furthermore, the hospital did not arrange for any transportation from the hotel despite it being up to 20 kilometers away from some health workers homes.

Lack of COVID-19 Testing for Healthcare Workers

In the order, the Ministry states that a nodal officer must be appointed to check infection among the healthcare workers. Doctors are allowed to conduct their own COVID-19 tests and take their own nasal swabs, the nurses need a doctor’s signature to approve the tests.

Healthcare workers will have to report their risk exposure to the officer and only if they decide it was high-risk can the healthcare worker be tested. If not, they must continue to work without being tested.

The order writes about self quarantine or home quarantine - or being taken to a quarantine facility if a healthcare worker shows mild symptoms. However, it does not offer guidelines on COVID-19 testing.

Healthcare Workers Demand Answers

Predictably, this order has not been well received by healthcare workers who are putting their lives at risk on the frontlines of this virus.

According to The Herald, RML staff did not vacate their quarantine facility and the Nurses Union is meeting Medical Superintendent Dr Minakshi Bharadwaj on Tuesday, 19 May to demand tests be done on all those who worked in COVID-19 wards.

The Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) has written to the health minister Harsh Vardhan to rescind the order as often with all precautions, healthcare workers still test positive so testing is a must.

Delhi and Karnataka state governments have issued orders on the same but not of the other state governments have as yet.

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