A DAY after a video of an elderly woman lying unconscious and unattended outside the Covid ward of government-run Rajindra Hospital in Patiala hours before she died, went viral, her family on Monday blamed the hospital authorities for her death and alleged that she was “declared false positive for Covid-19 to cover up negligence” by the staff.
On the other hand, the hospital authorities claimed that the preliminary report submitted by a three-member inquiry committee had found that the woman had herself walked out of the ward on the fifth floor, and “collapsed” on the stairs as she was still “unwell”. The authorities said that it was still being probed as to how she managed to move out of the Covid ward and if staff on duty were at fault.
Karnail Kaur (65), a resident of village Phumanwal of Sangrur, died around 5.30 pm on Saturday at Rajindra Hospital, the same day she was admitted. Hours before that, at around 2.20 pm, she was found lying unconscious on the stairs between the fourth and fifth floor, outside the Covid ward. She was a suspected case of Covid-19 with diabetes.
In a video clip that went viral on Sunday, a man who shot the video could be heard saying that the old woman had been lying unconscious on the hospital stairs for 15 minutes and no one had come to pick her up. Then, another old woman wearing a mask, claiming to be a patient, says in the video that patients inside Rajindra Hospital are not being taken care of properly. She further alleges that that the old woman had been lying unconscious for half an hour but no one came to pick her up despite repeated calls for help. She further claimed that if she and other Covid patients are not taken out of the hospital, they will also only come out one dead.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Karnail’s son Dharminder Singh (32), said they had taken her to three hospitals on Saturday before they finally reached Rajindra Hospital so she gets the best treatment at “one of the biggest government hospitals” in Punjab. “We never knew we were digging her grave with our own hands by admitting her there. She walked into the hospital on her own feet at around 12.30 pm and at 6 pm, we got a call that she had died. We cannot forget the harassment we had to face running from one hospital to the other on Saturday. Her sugar level was 450 plus and on Saturday morning we reached Nabha. We took her to two private hospitals in Nabha and then one in Patiala. Either they would demand Covid report or simply refuse to admit her. They would just say that we should take her to Rajindra Hospital,” said Dharminder.
He further said, “After we admitted her at Rajindra, they took her inside the Covid ward. She was a suspected patient but was kept with Covid patients even as her report was pending. Due to extremely high sugar levels, she was feeling thirsty every few minutes but there was no proper arrangement for drinking water also. Other patients inside told us that she was asking for water again and again but wasn’t given it, so she herself tried to move out and get water. It is due to the staff’s gross negligence that my mother died. She had no other issues except high sugar. At around 6 pm, we got a call that she was no more. We had no idea what transpired inside till we saw the viral video on Sunday on some news channels and WhatsApp…”
Dharminder further claimed that on Sunday, when they were handed over the body and other formalities were completed, they were told that their mother had tested positive for Covid-19. “They have declared her positive to cover up their own negligence and failures. She did not die of Covid, she died because she collapsed on the stairs and then for at least 20-25 minutes, not a single staffer of this huge hospital came to pick her up or check her or even given her water…”
Dharminder further claimed, “The hospital authorities even tampered with other personal details such as address, mobile number and village name on my mother’s documents so that the media could not contact us after the video went viral. They had my right number when they called to inform me about her death but later the wrong number was written in the records…”
Dr Rajan Singla, principal of the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Patiala, said that the woman was admitted around 12.30 pm on Saturday and was a “highly suspected” case of Covid and “was extremely unwell”.
“She was kept in the Covid ward because she was a highly suspected case as per clinical findings. When she was admitted her oxygen saturation level (SpO2) was 68 per cent. She was immediately admitted and put on oxygen. At 1.15 pm, her oxygen levels improved to 90 per cent and then at 2 pm, it further improved to 91 per cent. However, at around 2.30 pm, the staff nurse on duty inside found her missing and raised the alarm. But in the meantime, at around 2.20 pm, she was already spotted lying on the stairs and two of our doctors tried to pick her up from there. Since she was heavy, they could not lift her and two more attendants were called. By around 2.45 pm, she was already shifted to the ICU and her oxygen levels were recorded at 60 per cent. She was put on a ventilator but around 5.30 pm she suffered a cardiac arrest and died,” said he added.
Dr Singla further said that as per the preliminary inquiry report submitted by a committee set up to probe the incident, the woman herself moved out of the Covid ward and tried to go downstairs from fifth floor to fourth floor.
“…There might be two reasons why she tried to move out. First, as her oxygen levels had improved, she felt better and thought she was fit to leave the hospital. Second, she may have tried to go to the washroom. But we are only assuming,” said Dr Singla.
He denied any delay in shifting her to ICU after she was found on the stairs. “She had no injury marks and most probably she sat down on the stairs because of breathlessness as her oxygen level might have dropped again. As her condition deteriorated, she fell unconscious and collapsed. She was shifted to the ICU within the next 20 minutes,” he claimed.
Denying the family’s claim that she might have gone out to have water, he said, “We have proper drinking water arrangements for patients inside Covid ward. She tested positive the next day and the report came after her death.”
He added that another part of the inquiry was still pending to fix responsibility of the staffers who failed to keep an eye on the patient moving out. “The medical superintendent has been asked to inquire how she managed to move out and why no one saw or stopped her. If someone is found guilty, action will be taken,” he said.
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