'What Good are Claps?' Hero Doctors on Virus Duty Slapped by Cops, Kicked Out of Homes, Called 'Dirty'

CNN-News18

Hyderabad: A day after the entire nation flocked to their balconies to clap for the heroes in the medical field, who are working relentlessly to arrest the Coronavirus pandemic, doctors in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were greeted with humiliation and assault.

In a shocking incident from Telangana’s Khammam district, a resident PG doctor from Mamata Medical College, Hima Bindu, was allegedly assaulted by the police at the checkpost for venturing out during the lockdown period on Tuesday. The doctor was called in to attend an emergency at 8.30pm on Monday.

While on her way to the hospital, she was stopped by a local constable and was directed her to the local Additional Commissioner of Police (ACP), PV Ganesh, who assaulted her even after producing her ID card as proof.

“He asked me if I had any ‘shame’ and why was I out during the lockdown period despite being an ‘educated girl.’ I tried to reason out, but he slapped me and dragged me by my hair to the police station. There was no female police officer,” Bindu said, adding that an official complaint against the errant cop has been lodged.

However, she retracted it later upon receiving an apology.

“We are all fighting against coronavirus. Both the police and doctors are public servants. I don’t think this is the right time to fight among ourselves. They apologised and I let it go. But, please do not assault doctors on duty. We are already stressed handling the outbreak,” she said.

A similar allegation against ACP Ganesh surfaced from another doctor from District General Hospital, Khammam.

Doctor Shyam Kumar, who was called for emergency duty, was on his way to the hospital when he was stopped by the cops.

“We are risking our lives to save people and this is how the police treat us, what have we done? The ACP used foul language against me and threatened that he would seize my vehicle. I want him to publicly apologise” Kumar said on Tuesday.

About 120 kilometers away from Khammam is Warangal, a district that hosts the state-run Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) hospital. About 200 house surgeons have now been asked to vacate the hostel premises as they’re being kept handy to be used as isolation wards in the future. Although an alternate arrangement for the students is on cards, its implementation seems far.

Most doctors have started looking out for rented accommodations in the city and to their horror, most homeowners are shutting doors calling them ‘infected and dirty’ people.

“Our Principal says she has orders from District Collector to convert our hostel rooms into isolation wards. So, we have to vacate the premises immediately and when we are approaching homeowners for rented places, they say ‘you guys are doctors, you will infect us if you stay in our house.’ They tell us ‘you are dirty people and you will get us infected with Covid-19, so do not stay in our houses,” a doctor from MGM hospital told News18 on condition of anonymity.

In a recent interaction, the state health minister, Etala Rajender, had said that the government is planning to get 15,000 beds ready for isolation. They’ve reached out to private hospitals/Colleges to provide beds.

Further, he had added that people who’ve booked the accommodation a month ago, have been asked not to come, in the wake of Coronavirus and their deposit money is being returned by homeowners.

“What’s the use of clapping for us when you are not ready to give us shelter? You call us ‘dirty.’ We’re doing this for them and they call us dirty? We need to vacate the hostels and we are unable to find accommodation, so where do we go now? Do we sleep on roads,” the doctor asked.

According to the surgeons, there’ve been at least six such incidents. The doctors have reached out to the local Collector with a formal complaint who’d assured stringent action and said that the issue will be resolved as soon as possible.

Doctors in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh are going through the same ordeal. With no homeowner ready to give shelter and hostel premises being converted to isolation wards, about 200 surgeons are left in the lurch.

“Our hostels are locked up; we have a day’s time to move out. One of my juniors got kicked out of his rented accommodation and he had called me up asking if he could stay with me. What can I tell him, how can I help him,” a doctor from Guntur Medical College (GMC), who requested anonymity, said.

Albeit, the College had allotted a few students slots in a government PG hostel as an alternate arrangement, the doctors complained it is too crowded and cramped.

In both cases, the doctors have complained of shortage of N95 masks and even gloves in a few cases. They’ve had to manage with handkerchiefs on some days and also buy their own masks on some days. However, in the last two days, the government managed to get masks available in hospitals.

“When a minister comes to the hospital, he has an entire N95 gear, while doctors even fight for basics masks. We’ve never had N95 masks, we only get the normal masks here for wards and all,” a surgeon from MGM hospital said.