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A health worker wearing PPE collects samples from a man for COVID-19 rapid antigen testing, in Patna on Thursday. Image Credit: ANI

Patna: COVID-19 outbreak has not only proved deadly for the masses but also for the doctors in Bihar. The surging virus has claimed the lives of as many as 13 doctors, including six specialists, in the past one fortnight alone, causing panic among the health professionals on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19.

The virus struck the medical fraternity for the first time on July 13 and since then it has spread dramtically. The victims include Dr NK Singh, ENT specialist, Dr Mithilesh Kumar, former radiology department head, both from Bihar’s premier Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), Dr RR Jha and Dr K Ranjan, both surgeons, Dr Awadesh Kumar Singh, leading physician and Dr Mahendra Chaudhary, orthopaedist.

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All the 13 doctors except one died at federal government-managed All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Patna, which is well-equipped, alarming the medical community. The average age of the dead doctors was around 65.

“We are very alarmed at the death of doctors. We requested so many times to the state government to exempt doctors above 60 years from deployment on COVID-19 duty and allowing those above 65 to provide medical advice from home but our appeals have gone unheard,” state Indian Medical Association (IMA) secretary Dr Sunil Kumar said on Saturday.

IMA vice-president Dr Ajay Kumar has blamed supply of substandard PPE kits and gloves for the rising casualties. According to him, more than 300 doctors and health professionals have been infected by COVID-19 so far and the situation is slowly getting critical.

The medical community is also agitated over the state government ignoring their demand for reserving 50 per cent of the total around 1,000 beds at AIIMS-Patna for health professionals. Irked at the government’s response, they have developed their own COVID-19 care facility in Patna, capital city of Bihar, to save the lives of the community.

“We are trying to mobilise our resources to develop a COVID-19 care centre where doctors would be given priority in treatment,” IMA secretary Dr Sunil Kumar. IMA officials said the facility had been developed with help from senior doctors who lent not only financial support but donated equipment like ventilators, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), machines and manpower to let the centre function properly.

Not only doctors but also technicians at government laboratories are falling victim to the virus, which has now taken the entire state in its tight grip. So far, three technicians have died from COVID-19 in three districts of the state.

COVID-19 has claimed 298 lives and infected 50,987 people in Bihar till July 31, according to a report of the state health department. The severity of the situation can be underlined from the fact that the virus registered a four-fold increase in July alone. It took 102 days to reach the first 10,000 cases but it took only 29 days to breach the 50,000-mark.

On July 1, the total COVID-19 cases were recorded at 10,000 which went up to 20,000 on July 15, 30,000 on July 22, 40,000 on July 27 and 50,000 on July 31, amply indicating how the virus has been surging very fast now.