The Centre told the Supreme Court Wednesday that healthcare workers are coronavirus warriors and it will provide a specific helpline number for redressing their grievances such as salary cuts, delayed payment, non-availability of protective kits or eviction from rented accommodation.
A bench of Justices N V Ramana, S K Kaul and B R Gavai disposed of a batch of petitions including that United Nurses Association (UNA) seeking to formulate a National COVID19 Management Protocol for addressing the serious concerns relating to imminent and extreme risks posed to the health and safety of healthcare workers throughout the country.
Advocate Subhash Chandran K R, appearing for UNA, said nurses and healthcare workers belonging to the association are working in over 400 private hospitals of the country and many of them have either faced salary cuts up to 50 per cent or delayed payment.
He said that due to the lack of proper safety equipment, around 150-200 nurses have been infected with COVID-19 or coronavirus and over 600 to 700 healthcare workers are in quarantine.
Chandran contended that besides health hazards, many nurses and healthcare workers are also being asked by their landlords to evict the accommodation for working close to coronavirus patients.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said healthcare workers in the country are coronavirus warriors and the government is taking all necessary steps to address their grievances.
He said Ministry of Home Affairs will set up a dedicated helpline number for redressal of the complaints and their grievances will be addressed within two hours.
The bench recorded the submission of Mehta and disposed of the plea of UNA and a similar petition filed by Indian Professional Nurses Association (INA).
The plea of UNA has said, A large number of healthcare workers including nurses, doctors, and other staffers are infected in various states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka etc. Lack of preparedness to tackle the pandemic has led to 10 nurses at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central contracting the infection and almost all 265 nurses in the said hospital are under observation to contain further spread .
The plea filed through advocate Biju P Raman said that unfortunately the Centre has not formulated a National Management Protocol for COVID19 for addressing the serious concerns relating to imminent and extreme risks posed to the health and safety of medical personnel throughout the territory of India, amidst the currently persisting and ever escalating spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The health and safety (physical / mental) of health care workers are of utmost importance because further shortage of health care workers would result in thousands of unattended COVID-19 patients, which will have serious repercussions including escalation of the present situation and resultant impact on the economy, medical facilities, potential deaths and loss of human resource, it said.
The Association sought direction to Centre to provide COVID-19 protection kits to every single health care professional working in the corona isolation wards, or who work in close proximity of patients suspected to be infected with the virus.
It also sought various other directions including one to ensure that all health care workers are trained on infection prevention and control (IPC), proper use and disposal of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).