Thane: Covid-19 testing centre ropes in dancers, clean-up marshals for swab collection

June 1, 2020

NAVI MUMBAI: Faced with high attrition and absenteeism, a Covid-19 testing laboratory in Thane has now come to rely on a broad spectrum of professionals-from clean-up marshals to dancers-to carry out swab collection.

Private medical laboratories in Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivali and Thane are in for hard times due to insufficient manpower. One in Navi Mumbai is yet to start operations and already five of its newly recruited laboratory staffers have backed out over fears of infection, stigmatization and family pressure

Thane's Millennium Path Lab, which has an Indian Council of Medical Reseach (ICMR) approval for Covid-19 testing, has recruited former TMC clean-up marshals and even a dancer to carry out swab collection after seven of its staffers resigned.

Kiran Gosavi, CEO of Millennium Path Lab, said: "Our team of 10, which includes artistes and TMC marshals, has been trained well for swab collection. The problem with staffers is stigmatization and family pressure to not attend work. We have now provided food and accommodation to our lab staff. Their salaries have been hiked too. Even the collection person gets Rs 1,000 a day. We also have Covid-19 insurance for our staff."

Deepak Hire, 26, a professional dancer, who has been recruited by Millenium, said, "I started swab collections two weeks ago as I wanted to do something. Besides, I had financial issues. We cannot live in fear. My family is okay with what I am doing."

Pune's Krsnaa Diagnostic, which has also been carrying out tests in Navi Mumbai and Kalyan-Dombivali , is facing attrition too. Krsnaa vice-president Dr Rajeev Rao said, "We were to start a lab for Covid-19 testing in D Y Patil Stadium, Nerul. But five of our staffers attended duty for a day and then stopped coming. There is a fear among employees due to family and social stigma, besides the lockdown has made travel difficult. In the Shastri Nagar Hospital at Dombivali, I had to counsel staff and even their parents."

Dr Prasad Kulkarni, who runs a pathology lab in Vashi, said: "There is staff shortage not just in Covid-19 labs, but also other labs. A major problem for staff is travelling."

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