Money & Banking

Top insurance cover with protective gear for health workers: Experts

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on March 26, 2020

The Centre should not only be providing insurance cover of ₹50 lakh each to health workers fighting Covid-19 in government hospitals and healthcare centres, but also top it with the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), experts said.

The suggestion came on the heels of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing a ₹1.7-lakh-crore relief package under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package here on Thursday.

Under the insurance scheme to be rolled out as part of the package, up to 22 lakh frontline workers will be covered for an amount of ₹50 lakh per head.

Frontline workers from various quarters have been complaining of acute shortage of PPE such as like hazmat suits and goggles. According to Health Ministry data accessed by BusinessLine, as on March 26, there were 4,41,660 PPEs available cumulatively, and 11,26,018 N-95 masks. Also, there were 14,151 ventilators, 22,511 ICU beds and 84,670 isolation beds available, and the numbers change every day.

High casualty risk

In a study published on March 23, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientists had warned the Centre that the pandemic would severely hit healthcare workers as they take on patient care. “In China, studies have shown that 3-26 per cent of all casualties will be that of healthcare workers. It is therefore pertinent that frontline workers are identified and trained before the outbreak sets in,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, co-author of the ICMR study and a member of the Covid-19 National Task Force.

The study noted that health and life insurance should be provided if they contract the disease. Considering the high number of infected workers, measures should be taken to build biosecurity wards, it added.

Need for training

It also stressed on access to adequate PPE. “Resources should be earmarked, adequate supplies should be procured before the outbreak gains momentum. Healthcare workers should be trained in the use of personal protective equipment, screening of asymptomatic contacts, isolation measures and management of Covid-19 cases. Public health measures should be initiated at multiple levels, including but not limited to public messaging, and community health worker-based education,” it further said.

Denny John, a Delhi-based health economist, said the insurance scheme is an accident benefit cover under the ‘Special Occupation’ category (akin to those given to fire fighters). “But the term ‘accident’ is not clear here. But, I presume it is if a health professional contracted the virus while providing care. From an insurance standpoint, this might result in huge profits for the insurance companies if we assume the premiums for 22 lakh health workers in the country are paid to an insurance company (or maybe a group of insurance companies),” he said.

Published on March 26, 2020

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