Dr Pradip Bijalwan, who was about 60 years old, had decided to treat himself at home as he could not get a bed in a hospital, said former IAS officer and human rights activist Harsh Mander.
Dr Bijalwan collaborated in a street medicine programme with Mander for about 10 years in which he accompanied healthcare workers to visit homeless people in the capital every night. “He kept a low profile and wanted to serve the most needy — a typical comrade guy who was very old fashioned. Street medicine is a tough job, you have to work at night, make rounds of pavements, homeless clusters, but he was willing to spend evening after evening among the poorest. People like him have sadly become very rare,” Mander said.
He added that Dr Bijalwan was working in Covid clinics that were opened under the street medicine programme in
September 2020 at Geeta Ghat on the Yamuna banks near Kashmere Gate and also at Meena Bazaar near Jama Masjid.
Prior to that, he was also giving medical support and advice on tuberculosis at these clinics, which Mander said is a “bigger killer for the homeless.”
He added that Dr Bijalwan also looked after the health of about 100 homeless people who were provided space to live in a centre set up as a “sanatorium for the old” under the programme.
Mander said it is possible Dr Bijalwan could have got infected with Covid-19 while working at the centre. “Being a doctor, he knew what was happening to him. He tried to get admission in hospitals but did not get a bed. He then decided to treat himself at home, but lack of oxygen damaged his lungs and he died,” said Mander.
Dr Bijalwan had studied medicine in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. His daughter and wife are also isolating themselves after testing positive for Covid. Mander said Dr Bijalwan’s death would cause a big setback to the street medicine programme, but it would continue with the help of dedicated nurses and healthcare workers.
He added, “These are completely preventable deaths. There was time for a full year but hospitals are still without beds, it’s such a crisis. Many lives lost could have been saved… Dr Pradip belonged to a different age, of public good, we have to bring back that age.”