Covid-19 3rd wave: India’s biggest challenge is going to be an acute shortage of medical personnel


If a severe shortage of hospital beds and a dried up medical oxygen supply were the biggest challenges India would remember about the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst challenge the country will face in the world. during the third wave is an acute challenge. shortage of health personnel. As the third wave of the pandemic, driven by the Omicron super spreader variant, gains momentum, hospitals in India are already overcrowded with panicked patients. However, hospitals are also in panic with a severe shortage of staff to care for patients.

A large number of medical staff, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and maintenance staff, are also struggling with the viral infection and are either hospitalized, in home quarantine, or in self-drive. isolation. In total, more than 8,000 healthcare workers at various hospitals, including high-end medical facilities, government-run general hospitals, and private healthcare facilities, across the country have already tested positive for COVID- 19, and the number is increasing every day.

“Currently, there is a staff deficit of at least 20% on average in most hospitals across the country. healthcare workers and physicians; and the delay in admitting graduate students – resident physicians – who are the backbone of a hospital’s routine operations, ”said Dr JA Jayalal, president National Indian Medical Association, the largest group of healthcare professionals in India.

The growing number of positive cases among healthcare workers is mainly due to the alarming increase in infections pierced by the highly transmissible viral variant – Omicron -, as their (hospital staff) are closely exposed to the ever-growing crowd of patients, mostly asymptomatic without an appropriate mask. and hand disinfection, visiting hospitals and medical facilities in the past three to four weeks.

Nearly 400 medical residents are currently positive for Covid in the state of Maharashtra alone. Maharashtra, worst affected by the third wave of the Omicron-triggered pandemic, has seen an average daily increase of around 16,000 new cases of Covid-19 over the past week.

“All of the major hospitals in Maharashtra were already under pressure as they were only working with 60% of their staff as resident doctors for the new batch of postgraduate courses. However, the situation is even worse now with a total of at least 380 doctors in key hospitals across the state are on leave due to COVID-19, ”said Dr. Shivkumar Utture, former president of the Association. Indian Medical Officer, Maharashtra State Chapter and Senior Member of the State COVID Task Force.

While all major hospitals in Mumbai including KEM Hospital, Sion Hospital, PD Hinduja Hospital, JJ Hospital Group, among others, have reported a sudden drop in the number of medical staff. Due to coronavirus infection, the situation in Delhi is no different either. More than 700 medical professionals and doctors in Delhi and the National Capital Region, including at least 400 from the high-end medical institution – All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) – have tested positive. At 96 years old, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi also has a significant number of positive COVID-19 cases among its staff, while other leading hospitals such as Safdarjung and Shri Ganga Ram Hospital have reported a almost similar number of COVID infections among its workforce.

Similar situations are reported in other states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and West Bengal. Most hospitals, which suffer from the worst staffing shortages, including AIIMS, have now suspended some of the routine inpatient admissions and elective surgeries. AIIMS has also closed its specialized clinics and partially restricted outpatient visits, in order to adjust the staff shortage and meet the growing demand at COVID counters. The Institute has also asked some of its faculty members to reduce their winter vacation to return to work.

“The decision to suspend some of the routine services was aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID infection among other patients and also using the available workforce to meet the growing demand for inpatient treatment with COVID -19, ”said a senior AIIMS official, asking not to be identified.

While the key factor that led to the sudden increase in COVID infection is the higher transmissibility of the virus, which is now proven in the air, the other reason is non-compliance with appropriate COVID behaviors. on both sides as well as the non-availability of personal protective equipment such as appropriate masks, hand sanitizer and heavy-duty body protection to medical staff in most hospitals, says Dr Utture.

Adding fuel to the fire, the delay in NEET PG counseling has also led to a shortage of resident physicians, who typically take care of the routine outpatient crowd as well as day-to-day admission cases. .

“Anticipating the third wave and this crisis, we had warned the Department of Health with several recalls over the past three months requesting vaccine recalls for healthcare workers as well as the hiring of more doctors, who wait a lot outside to join government service. But instead, the ministry was content to take care of it and is now trying to address the labor shortage by shortening the quarantine and the time of rest of the patients, declared the president of the. IMA, Dr Jayalal.

The government also wasted at least four months completing the PG advice. The membership of these young doctors has also been delayed, he added.

Although the health infrastructure and supplies of materials appear to be adequate this time around to meet the challenge of the third wave, health experts are now worried about the worst-case scenario after large electoral rallies in Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab. An acute workforce problem will wreak major havoc in the coming days, as the attendance of COVID patients in all hospitals nationwide is set to increase severalfold, as more healthcare workers fall ill in due to their increased exposure to carriers of the virus.

Positive data for Covid among healthcare workers in top hospitals as of January 8:


AIIMS Delhi – 400

Ram Manohar Lohia – 96

Safdarjung Hospital –17

Shri Ganga Ram Hospital – 19

Rest of Delhi Hospitals – 460


KEM Hospital – 157

Sion Hospital – 32

JJ Hospital Group – 67

Remains of hospitals in Maharashtra – 570


Calcutta Medical College Hospital – 182

NRS Medical College Hospital – 63


Nalanda Medical College and Hospital – 76

Hospitals in the rest of Bihar – 162


Medanta Hospital – 40

Hospitals in the rest of the UP – 136


Rajinder Hospital and Faculty of Medicine – 91

Hospitals in the rest of Punjab –

CH Unnikrishnan is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Future Medicine India. The opinions expressed are personal.


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