Western Railway Hospital Interviews Nurses, Attendants on WhatsApp

Within 10 days of being turned into a Covid-19 facility, the Western Railways’ Jagjivan Ram Hospital at Mumbai Central has received 15 patients who have tested positive. However, a majority of nurses and attendants at the hospital are either over the age of 50 and prohibited to handle coronavirus patients or haven’t been able to come to work as they live in far-flung suburbs. Feeling ill-equipped to handle the crisis, the hospital conducted interviews of nurses and other healthcare staff on WhatsApp on April 14.

In the next few days, it plans to hire 126 new nurses and attendants for three months. While the nurses will be paid Rs 71,000 per month, the attendants will be paid over Rs 33,000 per month. Confirming the development, Ravinder Bhakar, the Chief PRO for WR said there is a need for additional doctors, nurses and paramedic staff to handle the situation efficiently. The Western Railways had recently issued an advertisement to induct 75 nursing superintendents and 51 hospital attendants.

“No one can step out for interviews during lockdown and we also wanted to respect the social-distancing rule. So we used a social media platform to conduct interviews. They will all be appointed for a period of three months,” said a WR official. The need for additional staff has been felt as 15 out of 51 patients at the hospital are coronavirus positive. These include two hospital doctors as well.

“Many of our nurses and ward boys are unable to come to work as they reside in far-off places,” said a member of the railway union, adding that the hospital divided the remaining staff into three batches. While the first batch worked for the first week (for almost 12 hours every day), they were quarantined for 14 days thereafter at a railways’ facility in Mumbai Central. “This is to make sure that they don’t take back the infection home,” said a doctor.

The second week is meant for the second batch and the third week for the final batch. However, by the time the first batch is ready to go back home, there won’t be nurses and attendants at the hospital. The recruitment, according to the management, will help plug this gap. The hospital currently has 350 beds but only 172 beds in nine wards can be opened up to keep social distancing.

At present, five wards comprising 100 beds have been opened up for coronavirus patients. Later, four additional wards will be opened up, including the ICU wards. On April 15, the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen wrote an eight-point letter to the Railway Board explaining the issues faced by the hospital. Some of these points include inadequate medical and paramedical staff, insufficient quarantine rooms and a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In the last few days, WR officials have also held meetings with the staff and members of the union to iron out these problems. Sources said that around 4,000 PPE kits will be procured for which the process has begun. The hospital also has residential quarters for 80 families of doctors and senior staff. The administration has promised that necessary care will be taken to prevent them from getting infected.