Indian Medical Association General Secretary RV Asokan on Wednesday said the toll from the coronavirus among doctors has risen from 196 to 273 in the two weeks since the medical body wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to provide adequate healthcare to frontline workers, The Print reported. However, the doctors are yet to receive a response from the central government, he said.

On August 8, the association, which represents 3.5 lakh doctors across the country, had written to the prime minister, urging him to ensure that frontline healthcare workers and their families received proper treatment when infected. The group had also requested the government to extend state-sponsored medical and life insurance facilities to doctors in all sectors.

“In the last two weeks, the toll has climbed to 273 doctors,” Asokan said. “Yet, we still haven’t received a response from the central government.”

He said that according to an assessment done by the Indian Medical Association, a majority of the doctors who died belong to the high risk group. “Of the 273 doctors who have died, 226 were above 50 years of age,” Asokan added. “So while more younger people may get infected, mortality remains high among older doctors.”

Asokan pointed out that doctors working in the private sector are not included in Centre-sponsored schemes, even though they are the worst-affected from the pandemic. He said mortality rate among private doctors is now 15% while among government doctors it is 8%.

“The Rs 50 lakh compensation is only being provided to government doctors who are losing their lives in fighting Covid-19,” he added. “The government needs to extend this benefit to private practitioners as well. When the pandemic does not differentiate between people, why should benefits and compensations be different?”

Asokan added that the association has also approached state governments for assistance. “We had annexed the number of doctors killed with our letter to the prime minister,” he said. “But when we saw that the letter had not evoked any response, we shared the names of the doctors with state governments, so that they could verify and help the families.”

He said that governments of Tamil Nadu Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have been proactive in announcing compensation for the doctors. “But the IMA doesn’t have any knowledge of families actually receiving compensation,” he added.

Asokan called for a “overhaul of the entire healthcare system”. “Health emergencies need to be dealt with by doctors and not non-doctors just because they are officials,” he added. The medical expert said the government should allocate at least 5% to 6% of the country’s GDP for healthcare expenditure. “Public healthcare institutions have helped India fight this pandemic, otherwise we would have collapsed like other countries.”

India’s tally rose to 32,34,474 on Wednesday after the country reported 67,151 new cases in 24 hours, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The toll rose by 1,059 to 59,449. As many as 24,67,758 people have recovered from the infection in the country.