As the number of medical doctors, nurses and health workers who are infected by COVID-19 continues to rise in India, the central government in New Delhi and authorities in various states have announced a slew of steps to protect them and guarantee their welfare in the course of duty.
India is mobilising 2.2 million medical professionals all across the country to care for COVID-19 patients, Preeti Sudan, India’s Health Secretary, told her counterparts in all of India’s states and union territories in a five-page letter on welfare measures for these health workers.
Healthcare professionals will be covered by a 5 million Indian Rupees insurance each for “loss of life due to COVID-19 and accidental death for any other reason on account of COVID-19-related duty,” she wrote, asking state governments to inform doctors and other medical professionals of such steps to encourage them and to increase their morale.
“The insurance is free for the beneficiaries and the premium will be paid by the government. Nominees of any person providing services in treating COVID-19 can claim the compensation if the service provider sustains loss of life.” There is no precise number of medical professionals who have been infected by coronavirus or died from COVID-19 in their line of duty because they are scattered in hospitals all across India, but their numbers have been rising.
There is growing appreciation for the sacrifices made by doctors, nurses and others taking risks in treating COVID-19 patients. Orissa state’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said yesterday that he will treat all healthcare workers who die fighting the Coronavirus as “martyrs.” Orissa will give them state funerals.
Their survivors will receive 5 million Rupees and awards will be instituted to recognise their sacrifices, to be handed out on national days, Patnaik said. This financial compensation will be in addition to the insurance cover announced by the Health Secretary.
“The families of all government personnel, medical and others, who die on COVID-19 duty will continue to receive a full salary until the date of their normal retirement,” the Chief Minister said.
Meanwhile, India’s cabinet on Wednesday met and amended the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 to increase protection for healthcare workers who are engaged in COVID-19-related duty. Under the amendment, anyone causing injuries to health workers, can be sentenced to up to seven years in jail and can be fined up to half a million Rupees.
If any damage is done to vehicles or clinics belonging to healthcare workers, the amendment has provisions for compensation amounting to twice the value of the damaged property to be realised from those accused of causing the damage.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Wednesday reported a rise in COVID-19 infections to a new high beyond the 20,000-mark. At the time of writing, India has had a total of 15,859 active cases, with 652 deaths and 3,960 recoveries.