Ram Singh (49) was working as multi-purpose health worker in Tapa block of Barnala district. He was deputed for contact tracing and Covid awareness in Tapa. He was performing his duties as usual until last week, when he felt weak and took off for a day. He developed fever, cold and cough on August 31. However, his family attributed it to a change of season. He self-medicated until Wednesday, when he felt breathless and suffered a cardiac arrest. He was rushed to hospital, where he was declared dead.
Barnala Civil Surgeon Dr G B Singh said, “We did a Covid test after his death on September 3 and it came back positive. His family has been isolated and is being tested. He had a history of heart problems. He presumed his mild fever, cold and cough was due to a change of season despite being a health worker. We feel very sorry for this loss, but at the same time, it is a message to all that no one should ingore such symptoms. He was our frontline worker.”
Dr Arun Sharma, MD (transfusion) of Amritsar Civil Hospital, died of cardiac arrest on August 30. He had tested positive for the coronavirus on August 17 and was undergoing treatment at a private hospital. He was 52 years old. Dr Sharma was recovering and on August 23, he had posted a video of himself dancing to a Punjabi song in the hospital’s isolation ward along with health staff.
On August 28, private practitioner Dr Jasbir Sehgal also succumbed to Covid in Ludhiana. He was an MBBS doctor and had a private clinic near Clock Tower. He was in his early 70s.
Dr Manoj Sobti, former state president of the Indian Medical Association, said,” Dr Sehgal was an active member of IMA and a very nice human being. His patients had great trust in him. We really feel sorry for this loss. Though he was not directly deputed on Covid duty, indirectly, private doctors are also at risk as patients for routine ailments come to them. Despite taking many precautions, one is always at a higher risk of contracting the infection. At par with government doctors, even private doctors should also be given health insurance as they are also at risk in this pandemic.”
Meanwhile, Dr Sehgal’s family has been isolated at home in the Model Town area.
Dr R K Gupta (72), a general physician in Batala, died of Covid-19 on August 23 at the Government Medical College and Hospital. He was doing private practice, and was a diabetic. Sources said he was a popular doctor in the area but was away from practice 2-3 weeks before falling sick. His wife is a gynaecologist and the couple used to practise on the ground floor and live on the upper floor of the same house.
An Auxiliary Nursing Midwife (ANM) posted in the health department, also died of Covid last month.
These are brief case histories of five health professionals who died fighting Covid in August. Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, nodal officer, Covid cases in Punjab, said, ”In Punjab, 948 health professionals (including doctors, nurses and other staff members) working in government as well as private sector have tested positive till now. Five have died. Many have recovered while a few others are recovering.”
Doctors these days are on the receiving end as villagers stage protests against health teams as they fear getting tested. Villagers even allege that doctors and other paramedical staff don’t take good care of patients in hospitals, due to which they fear going to health centres.
“Health staff is always at higher risk and they are providing their best services,” said Dr Bhaskar. “Doing duty for hours together after wearing a PPE kit itself is a challenge, loopholes are always there in the system, but one can’t label all health workers,” said a health worker on condition of anonymity.
Dr Shifali Joshi from Faridkot Government Medical College even posted on her Facebook page on Thursday that 12 of her colleagues posted in isolation wards had tested positive in a single day but they were not being taken proper care of.
Dr Rajesh Bagga, civil surgeon, Ludhiana, said, “Despite facing criticism from various corners, our staff has been performing duties since March and we are trying to do our best for them. In many cases, patients land up in hospitals very late and later are not able to bear the loss. We are proud of all our corona warriors. Most of us don’t even eat our meals in time. I myself have been quarantined and tested twice, as we come in contact with people on a daily basis.”