Amid rising Covid cases and an overwhelmed health infrastructure, Himachal Pradesh has run into an acute shortage of medical professionals, including doctors and paramedics for emergency Covid-care duties in the state.
As a response to the emerging crisis, the state government has decided to employ 4th and 5th year MBBS students, apart from five other categories including 3rd year nursing students for Covid duties with immediate effect.
Other categories listed in the notification issued by the state secretary, Amitabh Awasthi, include all contractual medical officers, junior and senior resident doctors, laboratory lab staff and General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) third-year students.
However, what has irked the medical students is the meagre remuneration of Rs 3,000 per month fixed for the contractual doctors, junior and senior resident doctors and medical students.
For other categories, the remuneration has been fixed at Rs 1,500 per month for their service in the Covid-care facilities at medical colleges and hospitals. The fund to remunerate the medical staff has been allotted out of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) fund.
“We don’t have a problem in working at the Covid-care facilities but Rs 100 per day is highly ridiculous as even daily wages for the unskilled labour is between Rs 320 to Rs 355 depending upon the area of work”, said a final year MBBS student.
Only two days back, the central government had also decided to deploy medical interns and MBBS doctors on pandemic duty in order to augment the availability of the doctors and paramedical staff. The government will give preference in jobs to those healthcare workers who will offer at least 100 days service in treating Covid-19 patients.
Currently, there are 20,727 active positive cases in Himachal Pradesh, of which 92 per cent are getting treated at home. The healthcare infrastructure in Himachal is overburdened, despite the fact that only 8 per cent of the total Covid positive caseload is in the hospitals and government medical colleges.
Shimla’s Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) hospital, the state's premier medical institution, has 250 patients in the Covid-care facility and another 120 at Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) hospital. The government is trying to set up a 100-bed facility at Walker’s Hospital, an Indian Army hospital, which has not yet been put to function after the 1990 devastating fire.
Alarmed over the situation, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur has called an all-party meeting to figure out a road map on imposing a lockdown in the state.
The state cabinet is also scheduled to meet on Wednesday to take a final call.
Himachal Pradesh is reporting over 40 deaths due to Covid-19 daily . In May itself, 116 people have lost their lives to Covid.