The Indian Medical Association on Thursday accused the government of “indifference” and “abdication” after it said there was no complete data on the number of frontline healthcare workers who have contracted the coronavirus and died, NDTV reported. The health body released a list and said that so far, 382 doctors have died of the infection.
On Tuesday, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey told the Rajya Sabha that health is a state subject and such data is not maintained at central level. However, he said that the relatives of 155 healthcare staff, including 64 doctors, had sought relief under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package, an insurance scheme for health workers tackling the coronavirus.
The Indian Medical Association – which represents 3.5 lakh doctors across the country – said the government loses its moral authority to administer the Epidemic Act, 1897, and the Disaster Management Act if it fails to maintain proper data about health care workers. “This also exposes the hypocrisy of calling them corona warriors on one hand and denying them and their families the status and benefits of martyrdom,” it said in a letter.
The medical body said the youngest doctor to lose his life due to the coronavirus was 27 years old and the oldest was 85. “To feign that this information doesn’t merit the attention of the nation is abominable,” the IMA added. “It appears that they are dispensable. No nation has lost as many doctors and health care workers like India...This amounts to abdication of duty and abandonment of the national heroes who have stood up for our people. IMA finds it strange that after having formulated an unfriendly partial insurance scheme for the bereaved families to struggle with, the ignominy of the government disowning them altogether stares at them.”
The association said the Narendra Modi government’s attitude reeks of indifference, The Tribune reported. “IMA hereby publishes the list of Indian doctors who died in the pandemic due to coronavirus,” the statement said. “We demand they be acknowledged and treated as martyrs. Their families and children deserve solace and from the government. IMA also urges the government to seek data from the representatives of nurses and other healthcare workers.”
The statement added that doctors suffer four times mortality of ordinary citizens, while private doctors suffer eight times mortality on the same scale.
In March, a scheme was announced that provided an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh to healthcare providers, including community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact and care of Covid-19 patients, and therefore at risk of being infected. It also included accidental loss of life on account of contracting the infection.
Last month, the IMA wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to provide adequate healthcare to frontline workers. Earlier, the health body had urged the prime minister 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.
This was the second time the government faced criticism for not maintaining data on crucial subjects. The government had told Parliament it had no record of the number of migrants who died while making difficult journeys to their home states during the lockdown.