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Guwahati’s Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute authorities on May 11 said that hospital staffs residing in various localities in Guwahati and adjoining areas are facing a lot of harassment from the people, landlords and housing societies due to stigma and paranoia among the people for COVID-19.

A relative of a staff working at Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI) in Guwahati was tested positive for COVID-19 on May 7. The girl, who was temporarily residing at her relative’s place in the staff colony, was tested positive only after her samples were collected upon her death. After that, the colony was declared a containment zone.

A statement released by Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute on May 11 alleged that some of their staffs were “unscientifically quarantined by Gaon Panchayats and local health authorities.”

“It was also seen that in many places staff of the institute who were not even remotely came in contact with the primary contacts were forced to home quarantine by Gaon Panchayat and local health authorities, which is unscientific and unethical at this humanitarian crisis,” said the hospital statement.

“It’s really harassment. And we are risking our and our family member’s lives for such people. They don’t follow precautions, beat up healthcare workers when anything goes against their wish, harass HCW and their family members,” a staff at the hospital said.

The clinical services of the hospital were suspended for three days except emergency care.

The 82 samples of staff of BBCI, including that of doctors, nurses, and cleaners were taken for COVID-19 testing and to the relief of everyone all the test results came out negative.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal spoke to Dr Amal Chandra Kataki, Director at BBCI and assured all possible help to the institute and asked the institute’s employees to keep their morale high at this juncture.

“Everyone who has been quarantined are found COVID-19 negative. This stigma is a social problem, like the HIV stigma. If it continues, cancer patients will be afraid to visit the hospital, which will be dangerous. Where will they go for treatment?” said Dr Amal Chandra Kataki, Director at BBCI.

“The mortality rate is very much higher in cancer than in COVID-19. It is a question of life and death for them,” he added.

Dr Manigreeva Krishnatreya, Medical Officer at BBCI said, COVID-19 in 97% cases will not kill a person, but cancer surely will if not treated.

“If there is complete disruption in clinical services at BBCI, many cancer patients will die due to lack of treatment. Blood of these unfortunate cancer patients will be on the hands of those people who are stigmatizing the frontline health workers and doctors, and not allowing their travel from home to hospital,” the medical officer said.

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