A total of 89 doctors have died due to COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu, according to data published by the Indian Medical Association (headquarters).
A majority of the deceased — 37 persons — were in their 60s, followed by 21 doctors in their 50s and 18 practitioners in their 70s. At least 40 of them were general practitioners, and nearly 30 were from Chennai.
The IMA released the details of 734 doctors from across the country who lost their lives to COVID-19 as of Wednesday, after the Minister of State in the Union Health Ministry stated in the Rajya Sabha that only 162 doctors had died of the virus as of January 22. Expressing shock over the statement, the IMA said this was contrary to the data released by it.
Of the 734 doctors who died, 431 were general practitioners. Twenty-five were aged below 35. As a community, doctors suffered a relatively higher viral load and case fatality rate.
J.A. Jayalal, IMA national president, said the data was collected from the respective State/local branches. “The Tamil Nadu government should expedite the process of granting solatium to the families of private practitioners who succumbed to the infection. Financial support is just one component, as we want the government to identify and honour doctors who sacrificed their lives,” he said.
The IMA condemned the perceived apathy of the Union government in verifying the data given by the association and the delay in disbursing solatium to the families of frontline workers who died. It urged the Centre to endorse the hard work and contribution of doctors in flattening the COVID-19 curve, and expedite the process of providing solatium.
Dr. Jayalal cited the case of Chandrasekar, a 65-year-old doctor in Chennai, who conducted house visits during the pandemic. “He contracted COVID-19 and succumbed to the infection. He voluntarily came out and practised during the pandemic, and it is important to recognise the sacrifices of such doctors,” he said.
K. Senthil, president of the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors’ Association, said two government doctors had succumbed to COVID-19 in the State so far, and the family of only one of the deceased had received solatium. “The government has assured us that the solatium for the other doctor’s family is being processed. We are expecting a solatium of ₹25 lakh from the State government and ₹50 lakh in insurance from the Centre. We hope the State government’s promise of a government job to a legal heir of the two families would be fulfilled,” he said.
A. Ramalingam, convenor of the Federation of Government Doctors’ Association, said the State government readily granted solatium to the families of other frontline workers like those from the Police and Revenue Departments, and should accord the same importance to healthcare workers.
A cross-section of doctors pointed out that many government doctors who contracted the infection did not receive the ex-gratia of ₹2 lakh and the one-month special pay announced by the government.