Doctors deployed in COVID-19 duty in all the Central and state government hospitals on May 22 sported black arm bands while at work as a mark of protest.
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The 'black ribbon protest' has been organised by the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) India to express the medical professionals' disappointment over the revised guidelines for health workers posted in COVID areas, issued by the Union and state health departments.
Deep Chand Bandhu Government Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC), Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital in the national capital are a few hospitals where the doctors are currently holding the protest by sporting black arm bands. The organisers said that if the government does not pay attention to their issues, they will intensify the agitation.
Speaking to IANS, the FORDA President said, "Today's 'black ribbon protest' at work is for the justified demand for adequate quarantine and testing for all doctors and other healthcare workers who are on COVID-19 duty. Since the incubation period of the virus is 2-14 days and many asymptomatic patients are also testing positive, quarantine post duty is a necessity. "It is necessary to stop the spread of the virus among the family members, colleagues and in the community. We urge the Union Health Minister to revisit the guidelines and make necessary amendments. We will have to intensify the agitation if the issues are not adequately addressed."
The government on May 15 issued revised guidelines for the health workers wherein it removed with the mandatory quarantine clause for the health workers post COVID-19 duty, except for those who fit in the 'high risk exposure' criteria, thereby revoking the facility for all other doctors and healthcare workers on COVID-19 duty.
The Delhi government's Health Secretary, also issued similar guidelines for the hospitals run by the Delhi government. The doctors claimed that this has put the healthcare workers in a dilemma with remarkable consequences. The RDA President at Maulana Azad Medical College and Associated Hospitals, told IANS: "The healthcare fraternity is fighting a war on two fronts today. One is the obvious (against COVID-19), the other is the fight for quarantine facilities. The new guidelines have augmented the mental stress of the COVID-19 warriors."
"The symbolic protest is to register our grievances with the policymakers and urge them to reconsider the quarantine guidelines. Quarantine is a measure to prevent the transmission of the virus to our parents, children and the community at large. Let us not jeopardise the excellent work done by the government for containing the COVID-19 outbreak," he added.
The Joint Secretary of FORDA, and Treasurer of the RDA at RML Hospital, told IANS, "The recent guidelines do not consider the possibility of asymptotic carriers and the accidental exposure of a healthcare worker during the stressful conditions of COVID-19 duties. As the incubation period of the virus is 2-14 days, asking the healthcare workers to resume duty or go home the next day just increases the chance of transmitting the disease to our colleagues and family members. "We need to safeguard doctors, one of the most important pillars of the frontline health workers to fight this pandemic. We demand 14-day quarantine in a quarantine facility."
Echoing RDA President's views, the General Secretary of the RDA at LNJP Hospital, told IANS, "This is to draw the attention of the Union government and the Delhi government so that they can withdraw the 'no quarantine' order. We don't want your 'Taali' and 'Thaali'. We want to serve the community for which we need proper 14 days of quarantine."