On May 10, Ganpat Makwana, 67, developed cough, cold and fever. The same evening, the family that lives in Ahmedabad’s Rohit Patel Colony got him admitted to hospital. On May 13, they say, they learnt from a daily medical bulletin on patients issued by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) that Makwana was coronavirus-positive. On May 14, the administration put the family under quarantine. The next morning, Makwana turned up dead at a bus stop 1 km from home.
In those five days, leading up to Makwana’s discharge from hospital hours before he was found dead, they had no information on his condition, his family says. On Sunday, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced a high-level inquiry into the case.
Speaking for Ahmedabad Civil Hospital where Makwana was admitted, Officer on Special Duty Dr M M Prabhakar told The Indian Express it was the job of the AMC to keep the family informed. “We are a multi-speciality treating hospital and there are corporation people to coordinate this.”
AMC Municipal Commissioner Mukesh Kumar remained unavailable for comment.
Makwana’s son Kirti said that after his father, employed at a textile firm, reported symptoms similar to coronavirus, they dialled the 108 emergency ambulance number to take him to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. One of three brothers, Kirti went to the hospital with Makwana.
“After admitting father, the hospital authorities asked me to leave. He did not have a phone with him so I wrote down the number of my younger brother, Dharmendra, for them, in case of any necessity,” Kirti said.
The family said they had no word from the hospital, and came to know only via the AMC document that he was a Covid-19 patient. On May 14, a government team arrived to tell them they were in quarantine and pasted a sticker outside their house saying the same.
As per the family, the next they heard of Makwana was around 9 am on May 15, when Dharmendra got a call from a policeman saying his body was lying in the post-mortem room at AMC-run V S Hospital.
Police told The Indian Express a guard had found Makwana lying motionless at BRTS Bus Stop around 1 am that day.
On Thursday evening (Dr Prabhakar says he doesn’t know the time), Ahmedabad Civil Hospital had discharged Makwana into home quarantine, without anyone in the family being told. An Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service bus, on Covid-19 duty, later dropped him some distance away from where his body was found.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines say, “A communication link between the caregiver and hospital is a prerequisite for the entire duration of home isolation.”
Dr Prabhakar said Makwana had been told to observe home isolation, as a medical investigation on May 14, including X-ray etc, found no symptoms. “With his consent, he was permitted to self-isolate, and was taken in an AMTS bus. Given that Dani Limda is densely populated, he may have said they could drop him nearby.”
V R Vasava, in-charge police inspector at the Dani Limda Police Station that covers Rohit Patel Colony, said they got a call from the police control room around 3 am on Friday about a body lying at the BRTS Bus Stand. “The body was sent to V S Hospital and kept in the morgue. Next morning, around 9, during the post-mortem, a chit was found in the deceased’s clothes with a phone number. We called the numberand asked Dharmendra, who picked up, to come to V S Hospital. He identified the body as that of his father.”
Vasava said they also learnt that the AMTS bus which Makwana took had two other coronavirus patients on their way home. The police officer said Makwana got off at a bus stand near Shah Alam Char Rasta, and they were still trying to determine how he had reached Dani Limda 2-3 km away.
A security guard at the bus stand at Dani Limda said Makwana had sought his permission before settling down to have his dinner there. A couple of hours later, he found the 67-year-old motionless, and called for an ambulance, the guard said.
Makwana’s brother Govind said that by the time the family got to know and reached V S Hospital, the post-mortem was over. Hospitals generally avoid post-mortems of suspected coronavirus patients, and Govind believes V S Hospital did not know Makwana was infected.
Govind said V S Hospital made them purchase a plastic sheet to cover the body. “We were not given any protection material like gloves, PPE kits or a hearse, we only had masks. We took the body to a nearby crematorium on our own.”
V S Hospital did not respond to repeated attempts to contact them.
AMC Deputy Municipal Commissioner Om Prakash Machra, who handles the health and hospital portfolio, refused to comment citing the “pending inquiry”.
The family reached out to former minister and BJP leader from the Dani Limda area, Girish Parmar, for help, who in turn contacted the CM. The probe panel appointed by Rupani is headed by Principal Secretary and former Gujarat health commissioner J P Gupta. Principal Secretary Jayanti Ravi said, “The inquiry will be completed within 24 hours.”
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