Nearly 10 residential blocks housing over 30,000 people each, small rooms crammed with up to 10 people, at least 40% of the population dependent on community and mobile toilets, and just one 100-bed government hospital and two dispensaries in the vicinity.
Jahangirpuri, a working-class neighbourhood under the Model Town sub-division, has emerged as one of the biggest COVID-19 clusters in the capital, becoming home to four out of North Delhi’s seven containment zones, becoming a worry for health authorities.
The neighbourhood has already seen more than 100 cases, including 44 healthcare professionals from the Delhi government-run Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital. There has been one confirmed COVID-19 death so far.
Part of the outbreak, say officials The Indian Express spoke to, may have been the result of a mis-step by RML Hospital authorities, who “handed over a body, which later tested positive, directly to a family that stays in the area”.
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The 55-year-old woman died on April 5 and her test report came positive on April 9. “Hundreds had come to offer condolences to her family and to attend her funeral. The end result – 31 people, including 26 members of her family, tested positive in the area’s C block,” said an official.
Later, Jahangirpuri’s H block reported 46 cases. At the local police station, at least six personnel have tested positive.
“There has been medical negligence as well. Patients at the hospital, who had turned up with symptoms of flu, were sent back with paracetamol. Neither were patients treated nor did healthcare workers take proper care initially. And how can you blame them when the resource crunch is so severe,” said the official.
Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital, which sees around 2,500 patients in its OPD on a daily basis, has become a COVID-19 epicenter in the area. Around 300 of the hospital’s 400 healthcare workers have been tested so far.
The chain of transmission started when the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and a junior resident doctor working in the casualty department tested positive. According to sources, the junior resident complained of fever and wanted to get himself tested.
“But the hospital administration did not take it seriously. When both of them tested positive, the staff protested and wanted immediate testing of all healthcare workers. A testing facility was created for us then. The OPD services were shut for a while to mark our protest,” said a senior doctor from the hospital.
“Moreover, most residents of Jahangirpuri come to our hospital since there is no other government hospital nearby. Till two days back, there were no PPE kits for the entire staff. We have N95 masks and PPE kits only for doctors working in the flu corner,” said another doctor.
District Magistrate (North) Deepak Shinde said they have started the sanitisation process. “We are tracing contacts of all healthcare workers who have tested positive. There are no plans to seal the hospital but we are carrying out sanitisation regularly,” he said.
The hospital medical superintendent did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.
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