The Ministry of Health has suddenly cancelled hotel accommodation arranged for doctors, nurses and health workers engaged in treating Covid-19 patients. Experts said this may disrupt the treatment system and increase the risk of infection to the family members of health workers.
A circular signed by health services secretary Abdul Mannan on July 29 reads, "Government doctors, nurses and other health workers involved in Covid-19 treatment will generally not be on duty for more than 15 days at a time. After performing 15 days of duty per month, they will be on quarantine leave for the next 15 days."
"Doctors and health workers will get accommodation with food or a special allowance for 15 days. If they do not want to use the accommodation facility, the doctors in Dhaka will get an allowance of Tk2,000 per day, nurses Tk1,200 and other health workers Tk600. Outside Dhaka, they will get Tk200 less than those in Dhaka," the notice adds.
Previously, health workers worked continuously for seven days and then spent 14 days in quarantine at a hotel designated by the government.
Expressing their frustration and discontent over the new rules, many doctors at several Covid-19 dedicated hospitals said this was an "irrational decision." Health workers are being affected while providing treatment and if the new rules are implemented, health workers' families will also be at risk. They asked, "Who will take responsibility if our family members are affected?"
A doctor at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, who finished his Covid-19 duty a few days ago, is nervous about his accommodation when his next duty starts.
Dr Rahat Anwer Choudhury, joint secretary of the Foundation for Doctors' Safety, Right and Responsibility, told the Business Standard many doctors are on deputation to various Covid-19 hospitals and they have no place to stay in Dhaka.
He added that it is difficult to stay in a hotel in Dhaka with the amount provided. Secondly, he asked, "Where will one stay during the remaining 15 days? Will the hotel allow the health workers to stay there without any government instruction after treating Covid-19 patients?"
He said, "I think the government needs to make a rational decision in consultation with the stakeholders and doctors. Otherwise, the risk of doctors and their family members being infected will increase. So far, doctors are the only professionals in the country among whom the rate of infections and death are relatively high."
According to the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), as of August 3 data, 7,123 people, including doctors and nurses, have been infected with the virus. Of them, 2,475 are doctors, 1,807 are nurses and 2,841 are other health workers. Among them, 69 doctors, 11 nurses and seven other health workers have succumbed to the virus so far.
BMA secretary general Dr Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury told the Business Standard BMA members will fix their next action after discussing what to do about the ministry's decision on Tuesday (August 4) in the evening.
Dr Farid Hossain Miah, director (hospital) of the Directorate General of Health Services, told the Business Standard that the ministry had issued a circular on the accommodation of doctors and just informed the hospitals about the circular.
On August 3, health minister Zahid Malek told reporters at the secretariat that keeping health workers in hotels for long periods was costly. Therefore, a separate allowance will be provided for doctors and nurses.