Junior doctors at Hyderabad’s Gandhi General Hospital, the nodal hospital for treating Covid-19 patients in Telangana, squatted outside the hospital building and staged a protest late Tuesday evening after attendants of a deceased patient allegedly beat up junior doctors on duty with office furniture.
The alleged attack was following the death of one of the patients, a 55-year-old Covid-19 patient, at around 6.30 pm. The protests went on till 3 am and the doctors resumed the sit-in protest from 8 am Wednesday. The doctors also submitted a memorandum to the state health minister and chief minister demanding increased security and immediate recruitment of additional staff.
The patient, according to doctors, was severely hypertensive and had uncontrolled diabetes for the last two days of his hospitalisation. He was on a non-invasive ventilator. The junior doctors say they had explained the bad prognosis, very little chance of recovery, to the attendants and advised the patient not to leave the bed. The patient was found collapsed near the toilet, and despite CPR, he could not be revived.
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“The patient was serious for the last two days. He was advised to stay in bed and use the CPAP machine for breathing. Going against medical advice he walked up to the toilet due to which there was a strain on his body and he collapsed and died. Two of the attendants came into the hospital breaching the security. They went inside the room and then came to the doctor’s station and beat us up with a plastic stool and an iron rod,” a junior doctor said, adding that he was saved only because other doctors and staff locked up the room.
Though the patients’ attendants are not permitted inside the hospital, the doctor added, they keep visiting. He also alleged lack of security and police presence despite earlier assurances from the government. “We demand an FIR against the attendants. We also demand immediate installation of the special protection force at every ICU and all floors of Gandhi hospital,” a representative of the Telangana Junior Doctors Association (JUDA) said.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, North Zone DCP Kalmeshwar Shingenavar said there was no security lapse and that the attendants were allowed inside the building on intimation of death of their kin. According to him, there was no physical assault resulting in injuries to the doctors.
A case has been registered against two of the attendants of the deceased under relevant sections of the IPC, Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and Section 4 of the Telangana Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (prevention of violence and damage to property) Act, 2008. Both were arrested and are being produced before the magistrate, said the DCP.
“No attendants are allowed inside the main block where positive patients are treated. The patient in question died in the Covid acute medical care unit (AMCU) on the third floor of the Casualty block where ILI and SARI cases are admitted. More than 200 police personnel are deployed in this building. The incident happened on the spur of the moment. It was also the change of shift for police personnel at that time,” said the DCP.
According to junior doctors, the police intervened only 15-20 minutes after the incident. As many as 65 patients are in the ICU and doctors have demanded increased security for them. The deceased, hailing from Karwan in Hyderabad, was admitted into the hospital on June 6 along with his wife and son. The arrested persons are the son and brother-in-law of the deceased.
Doctors’ demand: Decentralisation of Covid treatment, immediate recruitment of manpower
Holding placards with which read “Here to serve. Not to suffer”, “Exhausted and understaffed”, “Why only Gandhi(hospital), Decentralise”, and “Covid19 Journey: Claps to Slaps”, the doctors listed out their demands in writing, mainly revolving around three points – security, decentralisation, and recruitment. The JUDA has demanded immediate deployment of paramilitary forces as suggested by the central government. Another demand is “decentralisation of Covid cases at various levels to prevent mounting pressure on a single hospital leading to crumbling of already pathetic infrastructure”.
Their demand includes immediate recruitment of specialist doctors, broad specialty doctors, nursing staff, paramedic staff (ICU technicians and lab technicians), ward boys, and patients care providers (permanently through HMSRB).
The JUDA has also demanded adequate provision of PPE kits, N95 masks to all the healthcare workers at all the public hospitals among the state.
Responding to the protests, state Health Minister Eatala Rajender has urged the doctors to withdraw their agitation and visit him at his office.
A junior doctor, on condition of anonymity, said they were aware that it was not the time to protest but alleged that they were being bullied into staying silent. “Not a single recruitment has taken place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Even after three months, authorities are sitting relaxed. It is an impending disaster to happen,” he told indianexpress.com.
“The actual capacity of the hospital is 1,100 beds. The increased number of beds is merely numerical. Those beds can be accommodated anywhere. The library and reading room have been taken into consideration for space. The problem is that we don’t have the staff to handle that many patients,” he added.
Few days ago, the state government had said the Gandhi hospital was well equipped to handle the pandemic and attempts were being made to malign the health and medical department and mislead the public. The government had also said that there were only 247 patients undergoing treatment at hospital which is capable of treating more than 2,000 patients, adding that there were 9.61 lakh PPE kits, 14 lakh N95 masks available.
The death of a young vernacular journalist on June 7 at the hospital had raised questions of quality of care at the hospital, especially after his kin questioned the delay in admission and lack of medical care at the crucial hour. The 33-year-old had succumbed to the disease after suffering from a comorbid condition called Myasthenia Gravis.