The heads of a medical team from Kerala has reached Mumbai to finalise the formalities of setting up a special COVID-19 hospital there. The rest of the team, comprising 50 doctors and 100 nurses, are expected to reach Mumbai by Tuesday.
Maharashtra, with 56,948 positive cases and 1,897 deaths, is the worst affected states in the country. The state government had sought assistance of Kerala to plug the dearth in manpower in treating COVID-19 patients and the Kerala government had given the go ahead.
The letter, sent by the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) to Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja on Saturday, had asked for recruitment of these doctors and nurses on a “temporary basis”.
“Our major task is to set up a 600-bed hospital and 125-bed ICU as soon as possible,” Dr S.S. Santhosh Kumar, who heads the team, told The WEEK. Dr Santhosh, Deputy Superintendent of Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, had earlier headed a medical team to Kasaragod district, which once had the highest number of cases in the country.
He said the plan is to take the team in a chartered flight from Kochi. The team, drawn from those working in private sectors, will be given an orientation session at the MCH, Thiruvananthapuram, on Saturday.
Though the team was earlier expected to reach Mumbai by the weekend, the delay happened due to issues related to the comparatively lower level of salary being offered to nurses. While even junior doctors were offered 80,000, nurses were offered only 30,000. There were lots of opposition from various quarters regarding this gross inequality in the salary. The Kerala Government Nurses Association (KGNA) had also protested against the disparity in the salary offered. The poor working conditions for nurses in various government hospitals in Maharashtra were also a talking point.
“We are still getting calls regarding the poor treatment being meted out to nurses currently working in Maharashtra. We are told that nurses are not given proper safety kits,'' said Nandhu who heads the team of nurses. “But we decided to go ahead as it is a great humanitarian gesture,'' he added.
Dr Santhosh said that the issue regarding the low salary being offered to nurses and lack of proper protection kits will be taken up with the authorities in Mumbai.
The doctors' team will include pulmonologists, anaesthetists, physicians and junior doctors.
There were also apprehensions regarding sending the team to Mumbai when the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing in Kerala. The sudden spike is due to the inflow of people from various hot spots in other states and across the world.
“The situation in Maharashtra is currently much worse compared to Kerala. That why we decided to go ahead with the mission,'' said Dr Santhosh.