Member of TAG under home quarantine

Rinzin Wangchuk 

A senior member of the technical advisory group (TAG) with the health ministry is among the increasing number of health officials who tested positive for the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

While the concern is the surging cases among health workers which would have direct bearing on health services, especially responding to the pandemic, the cases have not deterred health workers from responding to the pandemic, according to senior government officials.

As of yesterday, around 140 to 150 health workers including some medical doctors were infected. Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that except 33 health workers who are in isolation, rest have recovered and are shouldering  their duties. He also said that there were two or three health workers who tested positive while treating patients.

A Kuensel source confirmed that a senior member of the TAG is put under home isolation.

Meanwhile, most of the cases were reported from the national referral hospital in Thimphu.  All the health care workers were infected in the line of duty. On March 18 alone,  14 medical staff including doctors and those from operation theatre (OT) tested for the virus.

Lyonchhen however said that those infected with the virus are continuing their duties to provide essential health care services. “We are isolating those who tested positive from home like any other individuals,” Lyonchhen said. 

“Those working in containment mode are  kept at the containment isolation ward.  And those tested positive while on duty are sent to the Covid-19 hospital in Taba to take care of Covid-19 patients.”

Given the shortage of medical staff, those infected with the virus, but without any symptoms, are coming forward to provide health care service at the Covid-19 hospital.

According to Lyonchhen, the health workers who tested positive are all happy to serve at the Covid hospitals. “They are determined to serve even with the risk,” he said.

There are 22 patients at the Covid-19 hospital in Taba as of yesterday.

Responding to concerns that Thimphu hospital will run short of doctors and health staff due to the number of cases increasing every day, Lyonchhen said that they didn’t face a major issue as the government has suspended the master degree course doctors were pursuing for three months. “We redeployed all the doctors to various dzongkhag hospitals where nurses were thinly spread out and retired doctors and nurses were also recruited,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that they (health workers) are stressed since they have to work round the clock. “Their work hours increased from eight to 12 hours and they work from hotels and hospital wards continuously for two weeks.  We are not granting them their earned leave,” he said, adding that health staff have become a rare “commodity” today.

Meanwhile, regular service at the JDWNRH resumed yesterday despite the surge in Covid-19 cases in the capital. Lyonchhen said that essential medical staff will work with full personal protective equipment (PPE). Indoor patients are admitted and hospitalised after testing.