The family of a 71-year-old suspected Covid-19 patient, who was declared dead at the Gujarat Cancer and research Institute (GCRI) on the Civil Hospital campus in Asarwa and was cremated the same day, was taken over by confusion and anxiety after calls from the hospital later saying that his condition was “stable”.
Devrambhai Mahangurao Bhisikar, a resident of Viratnagar, was declared dead on May 29 at GCRI. Within hours of his cremation, his family received a call stating that he was doing well and that his condition was stable. Another call from the command and control centre running from the Civil Hospital campus informed them the same next day as well.
“On May 29, afternoon, we received a call from GCRI that he was dead and we reached the hospital immediately. When I reached there along with my elder sister-in-law, we were shown a body that was packed as per Covid protocol as he was a suspected case and his report was pending. We did not see his face. The bag of clothes and other things I handed over to him at the time of admission was also with him, so I believed that he was my father-in-law,” said Nilesh Nikte (40), Devrambhai’s son-in-law who lives in Noblenagar.
Devrambhai was rushed to Civil Hospital Ahmedabad on May 28 afternoon when his sugar levels shot up and had cough. After chest X-ray, he was sent to Covid ward. By evening, he was transferred to GCRI.
Nikte and Devrambhai’s elder brother’s son cremated the body at the Vadaj cremation ground on May 29 night. Devrambhai is survived by three daughters, of whom two are married.
After cremation, they reached home around 11 pm and his daughter received a call around 1.30 am (May 30) from the call centre. “My wife did not answer the call as it was an unknown number it was too late. We again received a call from the call centre on May 30 morning, informing us that my father-in-law’s Covid test report was negative and that he was shifted to the non-Covid ward,” said Nikte.
The call made the family members rush to GCRI. “We were taken to the director who told us that it was indeed my father-in-law who died and some error had happened at the call centre. We returned home… But after we reached home, we again received a call around 2.30 pm from the call centre that my father-in-law’s condition was stable,” Nikte said.
“Same error repeating, that too, after the authorities assured us that the matter was sorted out, is nothing more than callousness and insensitivity… I am answerable to our relatives who are questioning me on my father-in-law’s death,” Nilesh said.
GCRI director Dr Shashank Pandya told this paper, “The patient was first admitted to the Civil Hospital on May 28, then brought to GCRI at 4.48 pm as a suspected Covid-19 patient. He had breathlessness, fever and cough. On May 29 at 3.15 pm, the patient died and his daughter Bhartiben and son-in-law were informed for body identification. “We have CCTV footage where the body is being shown to Bhartiben and her husband. The face was shown and a death slip stating she had identified the body was also signed. At 5.55 pm, the body was taken for cremation with relatives being provided PPEs. His Covid-19 result came negative around 10.35 pm the same day, until then he was a suspected Covid patient,” Pandya added.
While a government release said that Bhisikar was brought in a critical condition, Nikte shared that he received a call on May 29 around 10 am from the call centre that his father-in-law was stable. But by afternoon, the family was informed that he was critical and wanted them to sign a declaration. “I asked the GCRI hospital to arrange a video call with him which they did. I talked to him around 1-1.30, signed the form, and came home,” says Nikte.
According to an official government press release citing Dr Pandya, the patient was brought in a critical condition and the hospital kept informing the relatives about his deteriorating health. The release also states that while the control room personnel had informed of the death in the afternoon and informed the relatives that the body needs to be cremated as per protocol, once the report came back negative, the relatives were informed of he same.
“Devaram’s report is negative so he has to be transferred,” the personnel purportedly told the relative. As per the government release, the personnel informed this “without adequate investigation as the person on duty in the control room did not know of the patient’s last updated conditions”.
“When the on-duty doctor was informed of the error of the person on-duty at the control centre, the error was rectified and correct information was given,” the press release said. “There is no irresponsibility or carelessness in this whole thing except that the employee on duty in the control room informed the result of the Covid-19 report to the family members without knowing the last health status of the patient,” the release added.
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