- Doctors worried about safety of their family as govt cancels their hotel accommodation
- They say their job at Covid-19 units seriously expose them to the virus everyday
- Physicians say govt allowance for 15 days a month does not cover duty and quarantine
- National Technical Advisory Committee reiterates the need of doctors' safe accommodation
- BMA requests health ministry to revise decision, health directorate responds in negative
- According to BMA, 7,995 medical personnel got infected with the virus as of September 24
- BMA fears hotel stay cancellation could raise the infection and death of the health workers
Doctors at public Covid-19 facilities across the country are worried about the health safety of their family as they had to check out from government arranged hotels and return to home.
They said their high-exposure risk to the virus at work could result in infecting the family members – especially the elderly and children.
"Our group was on-duty for 15 days straight. After seven days of the duty, we had to check out from the hotel Wednesday as the hospital's contract with the hotel expired," said a doctor of Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital who just moved into his home.
"Who will take responsibility if anyone in the family gets infected with the virus by me," this was the main concern of the physician who was treating critical Covid-19 patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital.
The hospital's contract with hotels for doctors' accommodation expired Wednesday.
On the day, doctors staged a sit-in protest at the office of the director of Kuwait-Bangladesh Hospital, demanding safe accommodation, but they were not provided with any alternative until Thursday afternoon.
The Kuwait-Bangladesh Hospital doctor said, "We have to do everything in the ICU – ranging from giving the patient a tube to CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation]. This means we get exposed to the virus every day."
The physician said by ending the accommodation facility, the hospital forced us to share the infection risk of the deadly virus with the elderly and children at home.
The doctor said she has two children at home and it is not possible to maintain isolation there.
"While I returned home yesterday, my three-year-old daughter ran and grabbed me. My mother-in-law is a diabetic and a cardiac patient. If she gets infected by me, who will take the responsibility," he sounded upset.
On July 29, the health ministry in a circular said the government was going to cancel the hotel accommodation facility and it will no longer pay the hotel bills of the health workers.
The circular said, "The Covid-19 patient treating doctors and health workers will get accommodation and food at government facilities or a special allowance for 15 days every month."
It said if doctors do not want to use the accommodation at government facilities, a doctor in Dhaka will get a daily allowance of Tk2,000 and Tk1,800 outside Dhaka, a nurse will get an allowance of Tk1,200 in Dhaka and Tk 1,000 outside Dhaka, and a health worker will get Tk800 in Dhaka and Tk650 outside Dhaka.
The circular asked the authorities concerned to implement the order soon. Amid protests, the authorities extended the deadline several times and finally asked them to check-out Wednesday.
Another doctor of the Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital said it was difficult to stay at a hotel in Dhaka with Tk2,000 allowance. On top of that, the government will provide them only for 15 days while they need accommodation for 24 days including monthly duty and quarantine afterwards.
The doctor said, "I am a ninth-grade officer. I get Tk36,000 salary per month. How will my family run if I stay at a hotel with money from my pocket? In addition, we often have to buy personal protective equipment on our own."
In the meantime, doctors also said they were yet to receive the government announced Tk2,000 daily allowance for accommodation.
While contacted, Mugda Medical College and General Hospital Director Dr Rawshan Anwar said many of their doctors were staying at government rest houses.
"We are yet to get any fund from the government for the allowances. Therefore, the doctors are yet to get the money."
On September 19, doctors of Covid-19 unit at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital besieged the director's office demanding accommodation. In the wake of the protest, the hospital later arranged hotel accommodations for a week.
"I have duty at the Covid-19 unit next week. I am still uncertain about accommodation at that time,'' a doctor of the hospital told The Business Standard.
Meantime, the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 reiterated the need of quarantine facilities for the health workers.
The committee at its 20th meeting said, "Health workers as well as their family members are at risk of contracting Covid-19. It is evident from the opinion of the doctors that the health workers need safe accommodation for quarantine after performing their duties in the hospital.''
Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Secretary General Dr Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury told The Business Standard that the government was talking about preparations for the second wave of coronavirus but was not paying attention to the safety of doctors.
He said if doctors' safety is not ensured, their family members will be infected subsequently.
"We have already lost 88 doctors. If we do not provide them with accommodation, this number will increase," said the BMA secretary general.
According to the BMA, 7,995 medical personnel including doctors and nurses were infected with the virus as of September 24. Of them, 2,785 are doctors, 1,954 are nurses and 3,256 are other health workers.
Dr Ehteshamul said many of their newly appointed doctors even do not have a place to stay in Dhaka. "We have written a letter to the ministry to arrange accommodation for the doctors. Now let us see what they do," he added.
Dr Farid Hossain Miah, director (hospital) of the Directorate General of Health Services, told The Business Standard that the circular issued cancelling the accommodation facility for physicians would not change. Doctors will be accommodated in government rest houses or on their own and they will bear their own expenses. We will pay them the bills upon submission.