Hyderabad: Four more postgraduate students of Hyderabad’s Osmania Medical College (OMC) tested positive for COVID-19 on 2 June. So far, 12 students from the college, including Tuesday’s four new cases, have been affected by the corona virus. Of this, around seven are female students.

Samples of 170 hostelers, including 70 female students, have been collected and sent for tests. The first COVID-19 case among the OMC students was reported on 30 May when a female student from the gynecology department tested positive. After that, 11 students and an MBBS student tested positive. All infected students are hostelers who used to study in reading rooms and often visited the hostel mess. There are more than 400 postgraduate (PG) students in Osmania.

According to the Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association (TJUDA), the postgraduate students have been working in the outpatient (OP) department of Osmania General Hospital (OGH) which is overcrowded with patients. There is not enough safety equipment for the students, it said.

A member of TJUDA, Dr. G. Srinivas, told NewsMeter, “Since Gandhi Hospital has been converted into a nodal center for corona virus, most super-specialty cases are coming to Osmania and the hospital is crowded with patients. As per the COVID-19 protocol, only people working in the COVID isolation wards are wearing PPEs due to which students who are working in Osmania do not have proper safety equipment. Also, after work they spend most of their time together in the hostels. All PG students in Osmania must be provided PPEs and N95 masks.”

Overcrowded outpatient departments and relaxation of lockdown norms has made the students more vulnerable to COVID-19, said a resident postgraduate student from Osmania. “Doctors who worked in the isolation and COVID-19 wards were required to quarantine themselves for 28 days. In COVID hospitals, after working for 24 hours in these wards doctors sent into quarantine for four days. But in non-COVID hospitals like OGH there is no quarantine period. So, doctors and students here face a higher risk of infection. We want the quarantine period to be continued in OGH even for PG students. Every day we are exposed to thousands of patients,” he said, adding it is also impossible to maintain social distancing under such conditions.

During a high-level meeting, the outpatient registration timings at OGH was reduced to two hours. However, the OP visiting timings will remain the same. It has also been decided to conduct pre-operative tests for all students.

Meanwhile, the OMC students have been demanding that the final-year exams be postponed in view of the current situation. Examinations for final-year postgraduate students in the state are scheduled to begin from 20 June. However, the Vice-Chancellor of Kaloji Narayana Rao University of Health Sciences, Dr. Karunakar Reddy, has declared that the exams will be held on the scheduled dates and they won’t be postponed.

“We have been asked to write exams wearing PPEs and N95 masks. For COVID-infected students, a separate exam will be conducted. However, it is very difficult to wear an N95 mask and write an exam for three hours. We may faint,” another student said on condition of anonymity. “We have asked the authorities for detailed guidelines for the examinations. We are scared to sit in the reading rooms or use the mess because we do not know who has been infected,” the student added.

The exams for final-year postgraduate students had earlier been scheduled from 23 April, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the students had been assigned duties in their respective hospitals.

Dr. Karunakar Reddy had earlier told NewsMeter, “There’s no rationale in postponing the exam because we have already postponed it for about 12 days. We can’t keep postponing them because it will affect other students. There are reports that the cases will surge in July and August. So, how will we conduct the exams if cases increase in the next few months? If students are facing problems studying in the reading rooms, they should go home and study. The Medical Council of India, in a letter, has also said that exams should be completed before 30 June.”

He further said, “The PG, MD, MS, and diploma examinations which were scheduled to start from 7 June were postponed to 20 June. If we conduct the exams in June, all these students will be ready to serve the country. We also have to conduct practicals after the exams, so we can’t go on postponing them. If the PG students have any doubts, they can get themselves tested for COVID-19.”

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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