Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) held a press conference few days ago on combating the global outbreak of 2019-nCoV virus. They gave a few suggestions and made a few requests to the government authorities appealing the authorities to take care of the medical staff holding vigil against the virus. GMOA appealed to the authorities to ensure the medical staff working especially in Infectious Diseases Hospitals (IDH). It garnered many responses from the public. A number of responses from the public have poured in appreciating the efforts of the medical staff but there were some negative responses as well. Some people labelled the medical staff as opportunists who are trying to get an incentive even during the critical epidemic situation.
Amidst all these events, some social media channels and websites have claimed that minor staff of the IDH hospital have taken sick leave, possibly out of fear of coronavirus and their absence has hampered the functioning of the institution.
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Manjula Pushpakumara had a status updated with a caption in Sinhala which read “සෙබළුන් ඉන්නවා අසනිප නිවාඩු වගෙද ගෙදරට වෙලා ඉන්නකොට තියන සනිපෙ” trying to mean how it would feel if soldiers put sick leave during a critical situation with a link to srinews.org website. We noticed number of other instances of this information being shared as well.
In order to fact check this news, first we checked recent news related IDH minor staff not reporting to work in main stream media. We noticed that the source of these reports was a headline of a news published on the Daily Divaina newspaper, 30th January edition. The complete story from inside page is as below.
The website quoted Dr. Haritha Authge, the secretary of GMOA claiming some medical staff have availed their sick leave and didn’t show up to work., we contacted the GMOA and learnt that such a statement was made as per the information retrieved from the IDH Hospital and it was only regarding the OPD (Outpatient Department) & PCU (Progressive Care Unit) which were the first point of contact with the patients and at that time there was a scarcity of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). As per the GMOA branch at the IDH Hospital roughly around 40% of minor staff were on leave on the 29th and the condition is much improved now with 2 PPE kits given to each minor staff as well
We contacted a doctor from IDH, OPD Unit as well and confirmed that there were certain minor staff on leave on 29th due to lack of protective equipment kits only in the OPD unit. He added, “Unfortunately, this incident has been portrayed as if the entire minor staff of the hospital were on leave on that day which is a misleading. The situation is normal now with sufficient protective equipment have been provided and to all the minor staff.
To get an update of the situation we contacted the Health Promotion Bureau and they confirmed with us that currently there is no issue with the IDH hospital. Staff reporting leave are present and all units are functioning well and even the first lady patient who reported positive for coronavirus has almost fully recovered now and her husband had also tested negative for the virus.
Furthermore, we checked the latest press conference made by GMOA and noticed that it was a rather informative press conference on latest status and spread of the deadly virus and precautionary measures. Dr. Aluthge also stressed on the option to consider quarantine of travelers coming from Guangdong is located far away from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan.