New safety rules for medics rolled out

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG XIAOYU wangx­i­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn Hou Liqiang and Cheng Si con­trib­uted to this story.

China has rolled out more mea­sures on Fri­day to pro­tect med­i­cal work­ers fight­ing the novel coro­n­avirus epi­demic, as 1,716 med­i­cal staff had been in­fected by the virus and six killed as of the end of Tues­day.

The mea­sures are meant to re­duce hos­pi­tal-re­lated in­fec­tions, re­solve prac­ti­cal difficulti­es and boost the safety net for them.

“Epi­demic con­trol work is at a crit­i­cal stage, and pro­tect­ing and car­ing for med­i­cal staff plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in win­ning the bat­tle against the virus,” Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion, said at a news con­fer­ence or­ga­nized by the State Council In­for­ma­tion Of­fice on Fri­day.

How­ever, Zeng said medics on the front line are han­dling ex­tremely heavy work­loads with limited re­sources and rest. They are also cop­ing with mount­ing men­tal dis­tress and high in­fec­tion risks.

The 1,716 med­i­cal work­ers that had con­tracted the novel coro­n­avirus through Tues­day com­prised 3.8 per­cent of to­tal in­fec­tions on the Chi­nese main­land. The six who had died ac­counted for 0.4 per­cent of to­tal fa­tal­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to Zeng.

About 87.5 per­cent of the in­fected med­i­cal work­ers, or 1,502 cases, were in Hubei prov­ince. Among the con­firmed cases in Hubei, 1,102 were re­ported in Wuhan, the epi­cen­ter of the virus out­break, he said, adding that more re­search is needed to de­ter­mine if they were in­fected in hos­pi­tals or out­side of work.

As of Wednesday, the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion has deployed 189 med­i­cal teams with 21,569 work­ers to Hubei prov­ince.

Seven­teen pro­vin­cial-level re­gions had also dis­patched 2,897 doc­tors, nurses or hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tors to 16 cities in Hubei as of Tues­day.

To ad­dress the over­whelm­ing work­load of med­i­cal staff at the front lines, Zeng said au­thor­i­ties will gauge ad­e­quate work­ing hours and ar­range shifts rea­son­ably to se­cure enough rest for med­i­cal work­ers while meet­ing pa­tient needs.

“In Hubei prov­ince, where the num­ber of in­fected pa­tients, es­pe­cially those in se­vere con­di­tion, is par­tic­u­larly large, we have set up a max­i­mum work­ing time and en­sured hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­ters ro­tate staff to ease their pres­sure,” Zeng said.

A guide­line jointly re­leased by the com­mis­sion, the Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity and the Min­istry of Fi­nance on Fri­day says gov­ern­ments will also ex­haust all means to sup­ply suf­fi­cient pro­tec­tive gear and equip­ment to curb virus trans­mis­sion in hos­pi­tals, and needs of clin­i­cal staff will be pri­or­i­tized when dis­tribut­ing pro­tec­tive re­sources.

“Med­i­cal staff will un­dergo health check­ups, and in­fected work­ers will be im­me­di­ately iso­lated, in order to re­duce cross in­fec­tions among med­i­cal work­ers, or be­tween med­i­cal staff and pa­tients, to the great­est ex­tent,” Zeng said.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments at and above the county level are al­lowed to take over ho­tels near hos­pi­tals to pro­vide sin­gle-room ac­com­mo­da­tions for med­i­cal staff, while en­su­ing sup­plies of daily ne­ces­si­ties for them, the guide­line says.

To elim­i­nate dis­crim­i­na­tion against and ex­clu­sion of med­i­cal work­ers and their fam­ily mem­bers, which is of­ten fu­eled by un­founded spec­u­la­tion that they are bound to carry the virus, the doc­u­ment also re­quests crit­i­cism of such be­hav­iors, cit­ing joint ef­forts from lo­cal pub­lic se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties, pros­e­cut­ing bod­ies and courts.

“Those who harm med­i­cal work­ers dur­ing the dis­ease con­trol work will be se­ri­ously in­ves­ti­gated and pun­ished based on the law,” it said.

Mean­while, all med­i­cal staff on the front line will be of­fered a series of sub­si­dies, al­lowances and in­surance poli­cies to pro­tect their le­gal rights, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment will cover a daily sub­sidy of 200 yuan or 300 yuan ($28.60 or $42.90) for each med­i­cal staff, ac­cord­ing to Ou Wen­han, as­sis­tant min­is­ter of the Min­istry of Fi­nance.

He said med­i­cal staff in­fected with the dis­ease will be able to ac­cess in­surance pro­grams de­signed to pro­vide com­pen­sa­tion for work-re­lated in­juries, and the en­tire pro­ce­dure will be ac­cel­er­ated through a spe­cial path­way. New stan­dards in­tended to in­crease al­lowances to work­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in dis­ease con­trol ac­tiv­i­ties are also in the pipeline, he added.

ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY

Work­ers at a fac­tory in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince, work around the clock on Fri­day to pro­duce med­i­cal sup­plies in­clud­ing masks and pro­tec­tive suits that are es­sen­tial in win­ning the bat­tle against the novel coro­n­avirus out­break.

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