The Indian Medical Association has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking that all doctors who have died of COVID-19 be treated at par with martyrs of the armed forces, and their dependents be provided government jobs in accordance with their qualifications. In a letter to the prime minister, the country's largest body of doctors said only an "inclusive national solatium" for all doctors who have lost their lives fighting the pandemic would render justice to the sacrifice of their families.
The IMA cited government data and said 87,000 healthcare workers had been infected and 573 of them had lost their lives due to COVID-19. However, the Centre has not officially released these figures. Noting that the data has raised concerns all across the country, the IMA said its data for doctors alone has registered 307 deaths and a total 2,006 infected. It said 188 of those died are general practitioners who are the first point of contact for people.
"Doctors suffer a higher viral load and a higher CFR (Case Fatality Rate) as a community. IMA is constrained to point out that they could have stayed back at home during the epidemic safely. They chose to serve the nation in the best traditions of the medical profession," said the letter dated August 30.
The solatium approved by the government for their colleagues in government services in all fairness is deserved by the children of these martyrs as well, the association said. "All doctors who have laid down their lives in fighting this epidemic should be treated at par with the martyrs of Indian Armed Forces and acknowledged appropriately. The surviving spouse or dependent should be provided a government job as per their qualifications," the IMA said.
It also raised the issue that whatever solatium that is in place had failed to reach the beneficiaries due to the inadequacy of the chosen instrument and the "indifference". "The scheme is reported to have been lapsed as well. There is a pressing need to reconsider the same on merit and create a dedicated system to administer," the IMA said.
A national scheme to support the "soldiers fighting a pandemic" cannot be allowed to degenerate into just another pecuniary benefit for government servants, it said. "We once again appeal to your goodself that such a sacrifice by doctors needs to be acknowledged by the highest office of the nation irrespective of the sectors," the IMA said in the letter to Modi.
"We are also writing to you at this juncture since it has been predicted that India will top the world in number of cases in a few weeks. Healthcare manpower is precious. Uniform practices have to be put in place throughout the country," it said. The IMA said substantial differences were noticed from district to district in how doctors and healthcare workers were deployed. It asserted that districts were not sensitive to the safety angle, and the concerns of stress and fatigue of the medical manpower.
Noting that the nation deserves a radical approach to the situation, the IMA appealed to the prime minister for the government to bring in appropriate reforms, which it said were long overdue.
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