Patients in Sewri TB Hospital’s isolation ward number 12, from where 27-year-old Suryabhan Yadav went missing only for his body to be found 14 days later in a toilet cubicle, claimed doctors disregarded their complaints of a foul smell from the toilet.
Further, soon after Yadav went missing, an on-duty medical officer wrote in his report that there was a need to “check the toilets” but it is not clear if the instruction was carried out.
On Saturday when The Indian Express visited the first-floor ward, there were over 10 Covid-19 patients. Male and female patients share three common toilet cubicles. Saraswati Dongre, who was admitted last week, said, “For two days the smell was unbearable. My head started aching because of it. I could not even go to the toilet.” She said she thought the cause of the smell was a clogged drainage “The nurse kept saying one of the toilets gets frequently clogged,” she said.
But, she saw insects crawling into the cubicle, said Dongre.
Another patient, requesting anonymity, said she vomited after visiting the toilet due to stench. “I kept asking staff for several days. They did not pay attention,” she said.
Subhash Shinde, admitted since 10 days in the hospital, said he also kept complaining about the “smell of dead animals” but got no response from the staff.
Yadav’s body lay in the last of three toilet cubicles, inside isolation ward number 12 of Sewri TB Hospital. Patients had complained of unclean toilets and putrid smell for days before staff agreed to inspect the washrooms and found Yadav dead. The facility of bedpan or assistance to visit the toilet is not provided for even those on oxygen support.
The BMC has set up a committee under deputy executive health officer Dr Daksha Shah to conduct an external inquiry of the incident. The hospital has submitted statements of 69 staffers, doctors and nurses who were on duty in the isolation ward. Mumbai Police will conduct a separate inquiry to probe negligence and submit its report to the BMC commissioner.
Yadav, who complained of weakness, must have walked to the toilet in the early hours of October 4 where he is suspected to have collapsed. After he went missing, an on-duty medical officer wrote in his report for staff to “check the toilets”. In that shift were two doctors, four nurses and three class IV workers.
The hospital had informed local police and conducted an internal inquiry in which on-duty staffers stated they “checked the toilets and found nothing” but it is not unclear who exactly checked.
Shinde, one of the patients, says no staffer ever went to clean or check the last cubicle between October 4 till October 18. “They would only clean the ward,” he said. Police officials also did not enter the toilet as it was a Covid ward.
Several patients are on oxygen support and require assistance to visit the toilet or need a bedpan. Vimal Krishna, admitted since 11 days, said, “The nurses only enter to give medicines or put us on oxygen. When we ask for a bedpan or any help to walk till the toilet, they don’t even listen.” Patients complained they are shy of using a bedpan in front of the opposite gender.
After Yadav’s body was found on October 18, staffers have begun to knock on locked toilet doors to check who is inside, and a daily headcount of patients is done.
Dr Lalitkumar Anande, hospital medical superintendent, said they have submitted statements of all 69 staffers to the BMC inquiry committee. “The toilet is supposed to be cleaned thrice a day. We have three shifts and even we don’t understand how the body went unnoticed. There are enough bedpans for patients who can’t walk.” Anande said Yadav did not require oxygen support. “We suspect he suffered happy hypoxia,” he said.
A nurse from the hospital ward said garbage is dumped behind the building and the area generally stinks. “For last so many days we thought it was the garbage stench,” she said.
Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said the inquiry committee has visited the hospital once. A second visit is scheduled soon. “We will also inquire into why bedpans were not provided to patients or why staff was not around when he went to the toilet,” Kakani said. The floor also has no CCTV cameras to monitor patient movements.
Victim came to Mumbai in Sept
Yadav was a graduate in arts and had arrived in Mumbai only in September in search of a job.
Hailing from a poor family in Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Yadav fell ill soon after moving to Mumbai. He was admitted in a Goregaon hospital where tests confirmed TB and Covid-19 infection. Yadav was referred to Sewri hospital on September 30.
Yadav’s father Tejbahadur Yadav works as a construction worker in Mumbai and was not aware that his son had disappeared from the hospital. He came to know of his son’s fate only after the body was recovered. As Yadav does not own a phone the police had a difficult time in tracing him. He was finally traced by the police from Aarey Colony.
Tejbahadur identified the badly decomposed body of his son through a ring, clothes and the rakhi his sister had tied in August. He has since returned back to Uttar Pradesh.
Vijay Patil, DCP (zone IV), said Yadav had first visited Mumbai in 2019 for a job. In March this year he returned to his village in UP and came back to Mumbai again in September. “He was very poor. His father works at construction sites and has lived in Mumbai for several years,” he said. Tejbahadur returned to his village after signing a no objection certificate at RAK Marg police station to cremate his son’s body.
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