Some technicians of a private hospital who shared a room in south Calcutta were asked by the landlord to move out because the hospital is treating Covid-19 patients.
Another private hospital’s outsourced laundry stores are facing threats from residents of the respective areas who don’t want the linens and other items to be cleaned there out of fear that those might spread the coronavirus.
Health-care workers of government and private hospitals, even those who are not coming in contact with Covid-19 patients, are being ostracised in the city and elsewhere in Bengal. Officials of government and private hospital said the fear about coronavirus had become deep-rooted and they expressed the fear that such ostracism would continue.
Public health experts and government officials feel this attitude of a section of society would leave health-care workers demoralised.
Metro on Monday reported that many people, fearing ostracism and getting quarantined, are not going to hospitals even if they have primary symptoms of the coronavirus infection.
Last week, state health department officials and members of the Covid-19 task force formed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee had faced protests from residents of Siliguri, who opposed the government’s decision to convert a private hospital of the Medica group into a treatment centre for patients with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI).
“It’s not even a Covid-19 treatment centre but people would still not listen. Even local councillors joined the protests. In the face of the protests, we had to change the decision,” said a health department official.
On Sunday, the government issued a notice announcing that another private hospital in Siliguri would be converted into a SARI treatment centre.
“Many health-care workers, including doctors at several government hospitals, have told me they are being ostracised. Neighbours asked many of them to stay at their hospitals,” said Abhijit Chowdhury, a member of the task force. “Now is the time to show true patriotism and stand by the health-care workers who are treating coronavirus patients risking their lives.”
Psychiatrists said the behaviour was expected. “This kind of reaction happens when an unknown disease surfaces. People used to ostracise HIV patients and it’s the same trend now,” said psychiatrist Jai Ranjan Ram.
“Initially, people thought it would never attack them. Now that it is so close, there is panic and mass hysteria, which are aggravated by percolation of fake news about how the virus spreads.”
Peerless Hospital has taken on rent rooms in hotels around the facility for its health-care providers. The primary clientele of these hotels were patients from Bangladesh and other states of India. “Now, these rooms are empty and we have taken them on rent,” said an official of the hospital.
The AMRI Hospitals group is also facing similar problems and it had to file police complaints. “It was only after the police intervened that the problems were sorted out,” said an official of the group.