Updated: May 15, 2020 12:29:33 pm
A 67-year-old man died in an autorickshaw in Mumbai on Wednesday evening after a fifth attempt to get admitted to Holy Family hospital failed. His wife, who held his urinary bag in one hand as he died, says she desperately tried to beat his chest to revive him. By the time the autorickshaw returned to the hospital, he had died. A Covid-19 test result, in the absence of which the hospital had refused admission, remains pending. “It is a bad time to fall sick,” said a relative, moments after the man’s coffin was lowered in Bandra’s Seaside Cemetery on Thursday.
While the state government had issued notification after notification making it mandatory for hospitals to create a system of triage and treat patients even if a Covid-19 test result was pending, on the ground, hospitals are not following the orders.
In a meeting earlier this week with heads of private hospitals, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had asked them to create a waiting area for suspected Covid-19 patients and provide them treatment. The government has warned of action under Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, but it is yet to penalise any hospital for non-compliance.
The 67-year-old suffered a high creatinine levels of 12.9 on Tuesday. The normal range is 0.5 to 1.4. His wife rushed him to Holy Family hospital where a nurse conducted an X-ray of the abdomen in the emergency ward and asked the family to admit him to Bhabha Bandra hospital, claiming they had no beds. Bhabha hospital is a civic-run Covid-19 hospital, and as the man did not have a confirmed Covid-19 report, the family had to return to Holy Family hospital.
“There were hardly any doctors at Holy Family hospital, nurses were doing all the work. They kept saying they did not have beds,” the 67-year-old’s son said. He then took his father’s medical reports to Lilavati hospital, where he was informed a Covid-19 test was required before admission. He returned to Holy Family hospital for third time and brought his father home when the nurses said they could do nothing more.
The 67-year-old man was a retired municipal worker. On Wednesday, when he became breathless, his wife again rushed to Holy Family hospital, which is across the street from their Bandra chawl. “He has always been treated there. I kept pleading with the nurses to give him some medicine, anything to help him breathe.” What he required was an urgent dialysis.
After a few hours, the hospital asked the man to undergo a Covid-19 test. A notification released by the government on April 30 had stated that hospitals have to collect swabs for suspected Covid-19 patients on priority and treat them until results come. “No patient is to be turned away without examination and required intervention under any circumstances,” the notification had said.
The Holy Family hospital asked the family to get a Covid-19 test done 24 hours after he was first brought to the emergency ward. The senior citizen waited for six hours on Wednesday for a test. He was given a wheelchair in the hospital compound outside the emergency ward entrance until a private laboratory technician came to collect his swab. “He remained breathless throughout the day. I saw another patient with fits, even he remained unattended,” the wife said.
Dr Niraj Uttamani, medical director of Holy Family hospital, said they are working under constraints. “This patient required dialysis, we have only one centre. He was a suspected Covid-19 patient, we could not risk taking him for dialysis. We recommended the family to visit Seven Hills hospital or Nanavati hospital.”
Holy Family is treating at least nine Covid-19 patients. While the hospital had no vacant beds on Tuesday, it did have beds by Wednesday afternoon in its B-wing, as confirmed by Dr Uttamani. Finally, after the man’s swab was taken by a private lab on Wednesday evening, his wife called up her sons to inform they were returning home.
The 67-year-old’s mother, who is in her late 90s, prepared his bed for him to rest. She was not informed that he had collapsed en route home in an autorickshaw and died. She came to know only when his coffin was brought home on Wednesday night.
BMC Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, “We have asked private hospitals to scale up beds by 1,000.” Manisha Mhaiskar, officer on special duty in BMC, said KEM hospital, Sion hospital and Nair hospital will each scale up to have 100 beds for suspected Covid-19 patients.
“What if the Covid-19 test comes negative? Who should we blame then?” the man’s son said. His body was kept in their one-room chawl over night on ice inside a coffin, as the hospital said it could not keep it.
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