After a slew of resignations from doctors and nurses, Lifeline, the agency appointed to run the jumbo Covid facility at College of Engineering Pune (COEP), has decided to withdraw from the task of managing the hospital. The private agency has conveyed its inability to run the hospital “in the face of intense political pressure and drama” that has unfolded since the hospital started functioning more than 10 days ago.
“We cannot run the hospital in a situation like this. The atmosphere has been vitiated by undue political pressure… we have conveyed our inability to run the jumbo facility to the divisional commissioner. They will have to take a decision on this…” Sujit Patker, director of Lifeline, told The Indian Express on Sunday.
The decision comes after the district administration roped in two more private agencies to provide medical manpower. On Saturday, Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said since Lifeline was unable to provide adequate staff to run the hospital, the administration had been forced to rope in two more private agencies, which were providing 100 to 200 staff.
Patker said the agency could not work in a three-party system. “It will only create confusion and create problems in effective coordination. Besides, these are medico-legal cases. Someone has to be held responsible. A single party cannot be held responsible. And, therefore, I think it would be better if we opt out of the contract and allow those appointed to run the show,” he said.
Rao, however, said he had asked Lifeline to stay put till things were “normalised” at the jumbo hospital. “Till the functioning of the jumbo hospital is streamlined, we have asked Lifeline to stay put. We are not discontinuing anyone as of now. We want to ensure that the hospital is run efficiently,” the divisional commissioner said.
Patker denied that they had not been able to provide adequate medical staff. “We had appointed adequate staff and were in the process of recruiting more. But problems arose when political leaders started gate-crashing the jumbo facility and started abusing and threatening our medical staff. One by one, they started resigning. Some resigned a day after joining, some refused to join. Nobody wanted to work under intense political pressure,” he said.
The Lifeline management said the medical team at the facility was in no way responsible for the situation created. “We were promised step by step patient admissions. But just three to four days after the hospital started functioning, we were asked to handle 350 to 400 patients, who were all serious. According to the contract, in the first week, there were supposed to be 25 per cent admissions and so on. We had asked our medical team to join to match the patient intake, but were taken aback when serious patients were moved here in large numbers from other hospitals,” he said.
Even as the state government has initiated a probe into the death of television journalist Pandurang Raikar at the jumbo facility last week, the Lifeline management has told investigators that the hospital or doctors were not responsible for his death. The management has told government officials that the patient’s relatives wanted to move him to a private hospital.
“Three cardiac ambulances that came from private hospitals or other sources were not fit to carry the patient. One ambulance had no ventilator, while in another, the ventilator did not function. The patient died of cardiac arrest despite our doctors’ effort to save his life,” the management told government officials. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has sought the probe report by Monday.
“We have given our version to the authorities. We were asked to manage the hospital and our team put its best effort,” Patker said.
Too many patients at once
The COEP jumbo facility is facing problems, primarily because too many patients were moved from other hospitals right at the start. The district administration has finally realised this and has decided to restrict moving patients, increase police presence outside the hospital, put out a medical bulletin twice a day, stop gate crashers, and increase staff. All this could have been done before starting the hospital, said doctors at the jumbo facility.
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