Doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians, and other health care professionals involved in the care of Covid-19 patients will get a special insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on Thursday.
“We want to attend to the front-line warriors first, not forgetting the risks that they are putting themselves in by dealing with patients affected with coronavirus. For them, we are providing an insurance cover. In the three months that they are exposing themselves to this virus – hopefully, by then this will be contained – we shall be providing ₹50 lakhs to each person as medical insurance cover in case they need it,” said Sitharaman.
“Any health professional who while treating Covid-19 patients meets with some accident … would be compensated with … Rs 50 lakh under the scheme,” a government document says. Around 2.2 million health workers will get the cover.
Associations of doctors have been in talks with the government seeking such a health cover. “We would request you to ensure the protection of doctors working in health care institutions in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic by providing health insurance cover and an adequate number of masks and personal protective equipment,” the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Associations (FORDA) said in a letter to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on March 16.
FORDA president Dr Shivaji Dev Barman said they were assured of health insurance for all those working with Covid-19 patients when they met the health secretary. “As of now, most of the resident doctors who are at the forefront do not really have any insurance cover. And, if you see data from other countries doctors and healthcare workers are at a higher risk of getting the infection,” he said.
Nurses, too, have been seeking a risk allowance.
All India Government Nurses Federation secretary general GK Khurana said it is very encouraging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledges their role and it motivates them. “This is a good move by the government to protect the healthcare workers. However, it is just for a period of three months. We work with various infections throughout the year and we have long been fighting for a risk allowance. I have worked with patients during the H1N1 pandemic and even when HIV/AIDS first came to India.”
More than health insurance, most want personal protective equipment. “It [insurance cover] is a good move, of course, if people get the infection or die they should get compensated. But more important is to ensure that they get the proper protection so that they do not get the infection in the first place. We have been writing to the government about the same,” said Delhi State Paramedical Federation general secretary Jai Prakash.