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Whistleblower behind Gujarat HC order: ‘No PPE kit, mask, gloves… can be in big trouble’

On Sunday, Health Minister Nitin Patel said the state government has “reviewed the High Court order and its observations” and “held a meeting to discuss and give a reply... next week.”

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
Updated: May 25, 2020 6:54:24 am
coronavirus cases, covid patients, panchkula coronavirus, coronavirus news, covid news, latest news The letter also refers to alleged lack of testing for doctors in the hospital.Express Photo By Amit Mehra

ALL COVID patients are managed by junior resident doctors, with no senior professor on duty for rounds or emergency. Doctors on non-Covid duty are not given PPE kits, N-95 masks, or proper gloves. Not even 10 per cent of the nearly 700 resident doctors, who stay in a common hostel, have been tested.

These are some of the key charges listed in the anonymous letter that is a part of the Gujarat High Court’s scathing order on the poor Covid management and high mortality rate in the state’s frontline facility — Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.

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The contents of the letter suggest that it was likely written by a 25-year-old medical professional in the hospital’s gynaecology department who tested positive while on non-Covid duty.

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In its order Saturday on a suo motu public interest litigation, the High Court called the hospital, which has accounted for 377 Covid deaths (45% of Gujarat’s toll), “as good as a dungeon, may be even worse”.

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Describing the letter’s contents as “very disturbing”, the court asked if the Health Minister and Chief Secretary had “any idea” about the problems faced by patients and staff.

On Sunday, Health Minister Nitin Patel said the state government has “reviewed the High Court order and its observations” and “held a meeting to discuss and give a reply… next week.”

The letter, meanwhile, details alleged inhuman conditions at the hospital for doctors and claims that arrangements in wards posed a threat to the life of patients.

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“The hospital management is just concerned that if residents will get tested, and if they turn out to be positive, then who will work. No senior professors are coming for rounds or emergency.

All patients are managed by junior residents only. The management is not taking action for residents, instead they are calling us cowards and kamchor (lazy). Which is so not the case, especially when we are the ones risking the lives and doing all we can despite all the odds,” it says.

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The letter claims that “eight residents from my department and five residents of my unit were tested positive and we were criticised for getting our tests done”. “Since five days, we almost more than 30 residents are here, isolated in Hotel Marriott. No one from hospital management has bothered to at least call us for our condition,” states the letter.

“Sir, we were having such a big patient load. Despite that, we were neither given PPE kit nor N 95 masks. Even proper gloves not available to conduct normal delivery,” it says, adding that “excuses were given” instead.

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When contacted by The Indian Express for a response to the allegations raised in the letter, Dr M M Prabhakar, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) at the hospital, said: “Since this is a High Court matter, I am not authorised and cannot comment on this.”

The letter also refers to alleged lack of testing for doctors in the hospital. “We are assuming already that if residents get tested, half of the residents will turn to be positive. Sir, imagine the mayhem that’s going to get caused. This is an urgent situation which demands urgent action,” it says.

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Claiming that it is difficult to work on non-COVID duty, the letter states that despite many residents testing positive in the same unit and department, the others were not tested or their contacts traced.

“They are not understanding that being COVID +ve, if we work with patients in non-COVID duty then patients will get affected by the virus, instead of getting cured. On the day I was tested positive, I conducted 3 Normal deliveries and one C-section, and almost came in contact with 20 patients directly and their newborns. There has been no contact tracing done for the same. No authority has inquired about it,” it states.

And in what appears to be a clue about the author, the letter states: “At the age of 25 nothing much will happen to me. I turned out to be negative within 5 days without any treatment but it is not same as for pregnant females and neonates. They are immunocompromised i.e. if we will encounter the virus, they can be in big trouble.”

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