Small hospitals in Tamil Nadu are facing a shortage of paramedical staff as parents are not allowing the youngsters to go to work due to fear of the raging coronavirus infection across the State.

Shanthi, a nurse, working in a small hospital in Triplicane in Chennai was forced to stay at home by her parents despite her protest. Her parents have strictly said no to her going to the hospital as they fear that she may get infected, and in turn, may infect others in the family.

This fear is prevalent in many households. However, large hospitals do not face this issue as they provide their own lodging.

An owner of a small hospital in Thanjavur, a small city about 300 km south of Chennai, said that the paramedical staff shortage has been bad in the last two months and the hospital is not taking too many patients, he added.

‘Nurses face the brunt’

Spoorthi Arun, Managing Director at Promed Hospital, Chennai, said clearly the healthcare system is stretched thin dealing with the gargantuan number of sick patients. Nobody feels this more than the nursing community.

There is a huge shortage of essential workers. And this gap is steadily worsening. Nurses, who literally are at the frontline, and constantly in contact with patients have to endure double shifts and long hours of work, she said.

The tension is particularly palpable with younger nurses; nurses who are mothers and nurses with co-morbid conditions. Across the board, all healthcare personnel, including doctors, lab and EMT technicians are facing the stress.

The hospital has increased the number of non-nursing healthcare staff. This has enabled nurses to focus on just the nursing care for the patients. Concomitantly, the hospital has tried to increase the number of nurses and pay them adequately.

Nurturing talent

Jothi Clara Micheal, Director of Nursing, IHH India, Gleneagles Global Health City, Chennai, said the hospital does not face the shortage in this second wave, as faced in the first wave. This can be, probably, because all the clinically eligible nurses were vaccinated. The family and parents felt that it is safe for nurses to stay in hostel and continue their work because of the assurance that management will take care of them if they get infected with Covid.

Continuous education and updating of knowledge on Covid and precautions were given to all nurses. Having witnessed the extra care and remuneration given in the first wave, the nurses were motivated to stay back and support, she said.

Deployment of nurses in areas are done shift wise and 360 degree nursing leadership cover is provided for nurses to escalate and seek help.

Pooling of patients in bigger wards and closing different wards in rotation helps mobilise nurses to areas of need. Nurses from OT, Cath lab, endoscopy areas step out to support other areas, she said.

“We hear a lot about hospital beds during #COVID SecondWave! Remember beds cannot treat patients. We need nurses, doctors, paramedical support staff and an efficient supply chain and logistics to run hospitals. Also timely payments of salary appropriate for the qualification,” said Prabhdeep Kaur, ICMR scientist, tweeted recently.