Panic at cancer institute as 19 healthcare staff test positive, some say were not given PPE kit

Somya Lakhani, Astha Saxena
ppe, ppe demand, coronavirus, Delhi State Cancer Institute, doctors infected from coronavirus, coronavirus delhi cases 

The Delhi State Cancer Institute. (Archive)

Eleven more healthcare workers from the Delhi State Cancer Institute (DSCI) in Dilshad Garden tested positive for COVID-19 Monday, taking the number of positive cases in the hospital to 19. Of the 11, one is a doctor and the rest are nurses and nursing orderlies. While 10 of them were moved to Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital, one has been sent to Lok Nayak Hospital. This comes days after a resident doctor from the department of preventive oncology had tested positive.

“We have already shut OPD services and are in the process of shifting patients to private hospitals. We had taken samples of 50 healthcare workers who came in contact with the resident doctor. The campus has been sanitised and we are preparing a list of people who might have come in contact with these healthcare workers,” said Dr B L Sherwal, medical superintendent, DSCI.

Among those who tested positive Monday is a nursing officer who is eight-months pregnant. She has been sent to Lok Nayak Hospital. “She was tested for COVID-19 on April 1; the report came back came on April 4, following which she was moved to Lok Nayak hospital on April 5. She lives with her husband and child. They have been tested and results are awaited. Even after she tested positive, she was made to stay with her family for 24 hours before being hospitalised,” said a source at DSCI.

The source, who is close to the nursing officer, said, “Like all staffers, she too was only given a surgical mask and gloves, not proper PPE. The hospital was careless and reasoned with staff that since it is a cancer hospital, there will be no COVID-19 cases.”

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DSCI has reported the maximum number of cases among healthcare workers so far. In Delhi, a total of 34 healthcare workers have tested positive. On not providing PPEs to staff, Dr Sherwal said, “Ours is a cancer institute and healthcare workers are dealing with cancer patients. We are not a dedicated hospital for COVID-19, which is why there was no need to have PPE kits. PPE kits are needed for those posted at isolation wards or flu centres. The government is trying its best to provide these kits to those who actually need them.”

A male nursing officer at DSCI, who tested positive for COVID-19, has been admitted to Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital. His wife and two children aged four and seven years too have been tested and are admitted in the isolation ward next to his room. Their results are awaited. A source close to him said, “He was tested on April 3 and his result came on April 5. Like others, he too wasn't given proper PPE...”

Another nursing officer The Indian Express spoke to said “the staff was not given PPEs even after they asked for it... I just wore my normal uniform and a mask." His wife too has been tested and her result is awaited. A female nursing officer, who tested negative, said everyone wore flimsy surgical masks and were given inadequate HIV dress kits to wear on April 1: “No shoe covers or goggles were given,” she said.

Another doctor who tested positive Monday said he was asymptomatic and was moving to Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital.

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