Bengal doctors’ body wants compensation for all healthcare workers dying of COVID-19

‘Many patients seeing doctors for non-COVID-19 treatment turn out to be asymptomatic carriers’

The West Bengal Doctors’ Forum has demanded that the Centre as well as State change the guidelines for compensation in order to include doctors who treat diseases other than COVID-19 but end up contracting the virus and losing their lives.

“Every day guidelines are changing, be it for testing, treatment or quarantine. But the guidelines for compensation remain what they were in March. Doctors treating other conditions — such as cardiac arrest, stroke, cancer, fractures and so forth — are also putting their lives at risk, and their families too deserve compensation in the event of their death,” said Dr. Koushik Chaki, honorary secretary of the forum.

As of now, only doctors who die while treating COVID-19 patients are eligible for compensation: ₹50 lakh from the Centre and ₹10 lakh from the West Bengal government (the sum differs from State to State).

“Imagine the situation of the public if these doctors [on non-COVID-19 duty] decided to stay home, imagine the situation if gynaecologists decided to stay home. When the [compensation] guidelines were framed back in March, one hadn’t thought there would be asymptomatic carriers or that there would be community transmission. As for community transmission, we still remain in denial, but it is a fact many patients seeing doctors for non-COVID-19 treatment turn out to be asymptomatic carriers,” Dr. Chaki said.

Till date, 37 doctors have died of COVID-19 in West Bengal; most of them were from Kolkata and were practising. Among those who died most recently is Dr. Surendra Nath Bera, a 34-year-old gynaecologist.

“Our demand is simple: all healthcare professionals, be they on COVID or non-COVID duty, are equally vulnerable; therefore, stop the discrimination,” Dr. Chaki said.

He also reiterated the forum’s long-standing demand for earmarking beds for healthcare professionals affected by the virus. “If you are a politician or a bureaucrat or a top police official, all you need to do is make a phone call and a bed will be made ready for you. Why, then, should someone who is actually fighting the battle against COVID-19 go running around for a bed?” he asked.

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