India’s healthcare sector facing shortage of frontline workers amid surge in COVID-19 cases
India’s healthcare workers are risking their lives as they battle Coronavirus infections at the frontline. Overburdened with work, several doctors and medical staff are also putting themselves at risk of virus infections. While medical professionals have raised multiple concerns over the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hygienic quarantine facilities, and mental health support as they treat infected patients, their concerns are reportedly being ignored by the authorities.
Notedly, with a surge in the daily number of infected cases across various parts of the country, government and private hospitals are attempting to recruit more healthcare workers to treat the patients. However, majority of the hospitals are facing troubles in hiring additional medical staff to support the existing workforce. According to the country’s Health Ministry data, India has one medical doctor for every 1,404 people and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people, which is significantly lower than the benchmark issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Due to a shortage of healthcare personnel in the COVID-19 fight in India, medical sector personnel including nurses, doctors, sanitation workers, and lab technicians are working through longer shifts amid lack of appropriate quarantine facilities. Furthermore, insufficient financial investment in the medical sector is resulting in salary cuts of the frontline medical workers. As a result, lesser people are applying for vacancies in the sector due to low wages, poor working environment, and short-term contracts along with the fear of contracting the virus.
Even though major hospitals are hiring healthcare workers, they are being hired on short-term contractual basis for a period of one or two years only, which can potentially put them at higher risks of unemployment after the pandemic ends.
Long working shifts, delays in salary payments, and unfavourable working conditions are forcing the existing healthcare workers in many public and private hospitals also to quit their jobs. This is adding to the problem of the shortage of medical staff in the healthcare sector as the country struggles to contain the virus. Shortage of medical professionals in many states is forcing the authorities to ask final year MBBS undergraduates to serve in COVID-19-affected areas in return for internal marks and nominal stipend.
In Patna’s All Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), more than 400 staff nurses went on strike demanding permanent posting at the hospital. Regarded as “Corona Warriors” by the central government, several medical professionals across the country are putting forth similar demands for permanent positions and regular salaries at both public and private hospitals.
Evidently, COVID-19 has exposed several hidden flows in India’s healthcare system, including both public and private. Meanwhile, India reported a new record surge in Coronavirus infections on August 1 with 57,118 fresh cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total number to more than 1.7 million. More than 10.94 lakh people have been recovered from the disease.