On August 26, a woman in her 60s from Bachhoana village of Mansa district tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and mobile health teams arrived to shift her to a Covid care centre. She was asymptomatic. The village unit of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) staged a protest and did not allow Jasvir Kaur to go with the mobile team to the Covid Care Centre (CCC) of Budhlada constituency.
Asked why, a union leader said, “One of our relatives, who was asymptomatic, went to the CCC and he never came back. He did not get food, water in time. He was healthy but put inside the ward along with sick patients and hence, he also got unwell and died. This woman’s son lives in USA. He called up and said that if needed, she can be taken to a private hospital and they will bear all expenses, but will not go to a government CCC or Covid hospital.”
Jatinder Goyal, an advocate, lives in Budhlada Mandi of Mansa district. His father Keshav Ram Goyal was vice-president of the Ahritya Association of Punjab. He got a fever and cough a week ago and tested positive. His pulse rate and oxygen level dipped. He was also a heart patient, so he was sent to Faridkot Medical College, a tertiary care centre of the Punjab government. Gurlabh Singh Mahal, a friend of Jatinder, said, “Jatinder tested negative and I went along with him to get his father admitted. We stayed at a private accommodation in Faridkot. We pleaded with the hospital to allow us to provide food to patients, but we were not allowed. We saw that food was coming from a gurdwara twice a day…One type of food cannot suit every patient. His father died Thursday evening and was cremated the next day. We are very sad as we feel he could have been saved. Government needs to review arrangements at their level 1, 2 and 3 centres.”
A man in his late 50s who lived in Samana of Patiala district, died after testing positive for Covid-19 about three weeks ago. He had been shifted to Rajindra Medical College and Hospital as he had fever, cold and cough while his six family members were quarantined at home. His son, who did not wish to be identified, said, “My father called me up and told me there was no fan, no food and water inside the isolation ward where he has been kept. He was thirsty but getting no water. After that we did not talk, we could not provide anything to him as we were also isolated at home. Next morning we heard the news that he had died. I attended the cremation wearing a PPE kit, could not even see his face. We don’t know what was the cause of his sudden death as he had no other illness.” Since then, he has avoided visiting any government health centre.
People are developing a sense of fear about getting admitted in Covid care centres and hospitals. This is fueled by many admitted in these centres make videos expressing their grievances about the lack of facilities, food, sanitation, inadequate medical attention etc. Jagseer Singh, a resident of Kotha Guru village in Bathinda district, said, “I have seen a number of videos in which patients are complaining of lack of treatment inside CCCs. In Bathinda’s Meritorious School, ‘level 1’ patients had protested from the roof of the centre saying they were hungry and not getting food. Even ASHAs, government health workers have also complained. This is the main reason why villagers are protesting against sampling and going to CCCs.”
Shingara Singh, president of BKU Ugrahan’s Bathinda unit, said, “Resolutions have passed in villages Sandhu Kalan, Pitho Kalan in Bathinda against testing. We want the government to do testing but at the same time, they should improve facilities at Covid centres. People fear that they will die if they go to government hospitals. They should set up booths of testing in villages and Covid patients should be quarantined in village schools only. Many villagers even say that after death, organs are taken out of the body. So many videos are circulating on social media, either the government should come out with a clarification or we will continue to believe such information.”
“Most of the CCC staff are on contract, recruited recently on a per day wages basis. Wages range from Rs 750 to Rs 5000 a day depending upon designation i.e doctor, nurse, ward attendant etc. Average expenditure per CCC for 100 beds comes out to be Rs 30-35 lakh but if PPE kits, gloves, sheets etc expenses are counted, it will be over a crore per centre,” said Sandeep Singh, nodal officer for Covid arrangements in Ludhiana.
Hussan Lal, health secretary, Punjab, said, “There are many videos where patients are appreciating the healthcare inside CCCs and even Covid hospitals. We are trying our best to improve. Now the chief minister has also said that he himself will be writing to sarpanches of villages so that villagers can get themselves tested as it is for their benefit. The biggest problem which we are finding is lack of compliance in wearing masks and maintaining social distancing in rural as well as urban areas. One should not panic due to growing Covid numbers, but yes, death rate should not increase. We are enhancing testing to 30,000 tests a day. This way many persons will be detected at levels 1 and 2. Hence, many lives will be saved, if they get themselves tested. We are spreading this message across so that people don’t resist testing.”
He added, “Even Supreme court guidelines have come out now that CCTV cameras will be put inside isolation centres, wards and its access will be available to administrators so as to see the patients’ health and facilities.”
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