Two days after the Gujarat government assured the Gujarat High Court that protocols were in place to attend to patients and keep relatives informed about the developments at the state’s largest Covid hospital, nothing seemed to have changed on ground.
Hardik Valera, a resident of Dani Limda, a containment zone, lost his 81-year-old grandmother Naniben, who complained of weakness, 12 hours after she was taken to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital on Tuesday evening.
Naniben was put on ventilator around 2.30 am on Wednesday. “At 7.30 am, when the doctor decided to shift her to the ward on the third floor, they cited shortage of staff and refused to move her with the ventilator. They gave me a bag and asked me to manually keep pumping air. By the time we reached the third floor with her on a stretcher, the doctor on the floor said she was dead,” an inconsolable Valera told this paper.
“The entire night she was in the emergency room and no tests were conducted or samples taken. We also asked her to be moved to the ward, but they did nothing. They said beds were not empty and she would have to wait,” said Valera.
Officer on Special Duty (OSD) at the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, Dr MM Prabhakar, told The Indian Express, “We did not send (Naniben’s) the samples, as our first priority is to save the life of the patient.” He added that as per his information, samples were not taken.
Asked about standard operating procedures (SoP) for patients from red zones, Dr Prabhakar said, “There are patients who come directly and second are those who are brought by the 108 ambulance service. They usually take them to the old trauma centre or the Covid centre.” He said all patients coming to the Civil Hospital are being seen as Covid patients.
On Wednesday, a video was widely shared showing a patient, Nazma Bibi, with blood draining out of the nasal tubes and purportedly dead. A person in protective suit is seen rebuking the doctor, asking why he was not informed about his mother being put on ventilator, as the doctor tells him he was not allowed in the ICU and that he should seek information from the control room.
Asked about the case, Prabhakar said, “The patient was Covid-positive, diabetic and was on blood thinners. She died on May 24. Firstly, the relative bypassed security and entered the ward, illegaly. We are receiving 100 patients a day, all in critical condition and there may be a couple of cases where the relative may not be informed. At the time of admission, the family’s consent is taken for giving the required course of treatment.”
Similar accounts were reported from the hospital run by Vadodara’s Gujarat Medical Education and Research Society (GMERS) in Gotri On Tuesday, when a 78-year-old Covid-19 patient from old city area, who was on ventilator support, died. Four days ago, the hospital had allowed his grandson to enter the ward to change his grandfather Shamshuddin Sheikh’s diapers.
The victim’s granddaughter, Afsana, said, “My grandfather was unwell and he was referred to the Covid-19 hospital on May 19. They told us a day later that he had tested positive but we were not even given a soft copy of the report for our record. When we admitted him there, although he was unwell, he was able to sit up, eat and talk. A day later, they told us they had intubated him. We were surprised because he didn’t seem to be that critical. We didn’t know what was going on. We asked them to assign a staff member for his personal care and we were willing to pay but there was no such facility available. We were hearing stories from other patients about the apathy of the sanitation staff. After repeated requests, the presiding doctor allowed my brother to go in on May 23, wearing a PPE suit.”
“Yesterday, when my brother went to see the body, he noticed that he was in the same diaper that we had changed four days ago. How can a patient even feel mentally at ease in such a situation? Why can’t they allow relatives inside for one time during the day to attend to the personal needs. It is risky but we can’t see our loved ones like this,” she said.
After repeated complaints, OSD Vinod Rao, directed the authorities to file FIRs against sanitation workers under the Epidemic Act if they refused to do their jobs. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Vadodara Urban Development Authority (VUDA), Ashok Patel, who is the administrator of GMERS hospital, said, “Since I took charge, we increased the sanitation staff strength to ensure that there are enough attendants. The Covid-19 ward has 21 sanitation workers in three shifts of eight hours each. But if we receive specific complaints, we do look into it. Sanitation workers are equipped with PPE kits and proper protection so there are no safety issues.”
Presiding doctor at Gotri GMERS confirmed that the relatives of the patient who passed away on Tuesday were allowed to visit him to change his diaper once but refused to speak on the issue of sanitation workers.
In Ahmedabad, 41-year-old Razauddin Shaikh, a fitness professional and resident of Gomtipur, one of the 10 containment zones in Ahmedabad, tested positive on May 4. He was admitted to the Civil Hospital where he tested positive for Covid-19 on May 8 but was discharged on May 9. However, he got severe symptoms later and was admitted to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-run SVP Hospital on May 11, with various references from local corporators, where he recovered and was discharged on May 25.
A day later, on Tuesday, he complained of chest pain and breathlessness, following which he was taken to SVP Hospital again. Shaikh said the doctors gave him Tramadol ( a muscular pain reliever) and paracetamol, and asked him to go home. The doctors said it was “psychological” and could be due to “heat”, Shaikh said adding they asked him to go home and rest.
Chief Executive Officer at SVP told The Indian Express, “All the parameters, including blood pressure, oxygen and temperature, were normal and hence admission was not required.”
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