Updated: July 22, 2020 2:05:40 pm
Till July 11, a total of 2,198 BMC workers had tested positive. The Indian Express spoke to the family members of five who died.
Subhas Mahadik (53): Mukadam, Solid Waste Management
Subhas Mahadik, who died on June 2, was posted at the SWM chowky in Goregaon West, where, as mukadam, he supervised the garbage collection vehicles.
Twenty-seven workers from the Solid Waste Management department — which collects garbage, including biomedical waste, from assigned areas — have died of Covid so far.
When Mahadik fell ill on May 29, a local doctor diagnosed double pneumonia and advised a Covid test.
“We approached private labs, but all refused to test him saying that there was a two-day waiting period. Meanwhile, his condition deteriorated and the doctor advised immediate hospitalisation. We approached at least six-seven hospitals, but he was denied admission. Either they asked for a Covid test report, or cited unavailability of beds. Even after showing his ID card and saying that he was on duty, we were struggling for a bed,” said Mahadik’s son, Nikhil.
He said initially, the BMC’s Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Hospital also denied admission. But he was finally admitted on May 31, and died two days later.
Mahadik’s family said he had complained of unhygienic conditions at his chowky.
Vijay Gite (46): Security Guard
When the Covid outbreak hit Mumbai, Vijay Gite was assigned duty at the Kasturba Hospital. In March, Gite wrote a letter on his experience at the hospital, and appealed to citizens to stay at home. The letter went viral on social media.
Gite developed fever on May 15, and later tested positive. On May 26, as his condition worsened, he was admitted to Nair Hospital. He died on June 5.
“He was dedicated to his job. A day after he developed high fever, he had an argument with his wife because he decided to go to work and she was telling him to take the day off,” said Dipali Sanap, Gite’s sister-in-law.
Sanap said working for the BMC was Gite’s badge of honour.
Ratnaprabha Dabholkar (63): Community Health Volunteer
Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) are the backbone of the BMC’s Covid battle. From contact tracing to door-to-door screening, CHVs do it all.
Ratnaprabha Dabholkar is categorised in hospital records as a “suspected Covid-19” patient as the hospital did not collect her sample.
Dabholkar, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, fell ill on May 23. “After consulting a local doctor, we found that her oxygen level was dipping fast. The doctor suggested immediate hospitalisation. For an entire day, we searched for a hospital that would admit her, but failed. On the second day, we got a bed in SRV Hospital in Chembur,” said her son, Mahesh.
On May 31, within seven hours of her admission, the hospital informed the family that she had died due to pneumonia and respiratory distress syndrome. Despite the BMC’s directive that those above 55 years of age with comorbidities would not be given Covid-related duties, Dabholkar was told to report to duty, said her family.
Rafeeq Shaikh (58): Driver, Mumbai Fire Brigade
Rafeeq Shaikh wanted to build a house in his hometown, Satara, after retirement. Two days before he was due to retire, Shaikh, who worked as a driver with the Mumbai Fire Brigade at the Goregaon fire station, succumbed to Covid-19 on May 28.
Shaikh was actively involved in sanitisation work in Goregaon area. After falling ill, he got a Covid test done on May 19. Two days later, he got a positive report. He was admitted to Agarwal Hospital in Vasai.
“He used to only think about others. He would say that if he was able to save a single person’s life, it would be a great achievement,” said his daughter, Hina. “Two days before his death, he said he was recovering. But on May 28, we got a call from the hospital that he had died,” she said.
Jagannath Yadav (54): Sweeper, Sion Hospital
Jagannath Yadav, a sweeper assigned duty in the operation theatre of Sion Hospital, succumbed to Covid on May 30. He was admitted to Sion Hospital on May 5, but later shifted to Seven Hills in Marol.
“After his death, we had to keep his body in hospital for a day since there were no ambulances available. On May 31, I finally managed to get a private ambulance. But the hospital staff refused to use that ambulance for the last rites, which had to be done as per the Covid protocol,” said Yadav’s son, Roshan.
“I then decided to cremate the body with the help of the private ambulance staff,” he said. Roshan said they didn’t have PPE, and only had gloves. “I was scared but we did not have any option,” he said.
Yadav was the only earning member of his family — both his sons were rendered jobless after the lockdown.
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