A nursing officer at a government medical college in Kochi has been suspended after an audio clip — sent by the officer to her colleagues ahead of the Central team’s visit — revealed that a patient died gasping for oxygen and several others could have been killed due to negligence inside the Covid ward of the hospital.
After the audio clip was circulated on social media, the family of the patient, T K Haris, approached the police seeking action against alleged negligence that led to the patient’s death on July 30. The medical education director probed the incident at the behest of Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja, and suspended nursing officer Jalaja Devi.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the issue is a “serious one” and “would dent the image of the state’s health sector”.
On Saturday, Devi sent a voice message in a WhatsApp group comprising her nursing staff ahead of the Central team’s visit. “Today, some doctors reported that oxygen masks were not found properly fitted on many patients. Masks were found displaced, not fitted to the face. Ventilator tubes should be seen whether properly inserted into nostrils. Doctors have reported that due to our negligence, many patients have lost their lives. Unluckily, if we are caught, that would become a major issue. A patient, Haris…ventilator tube was found not inserted into his nostril. In fact, he had been fit to be shifted out of ventilator support…His relatives have complained about death. But doctors have not disclosed anything to protect us. Otherwise, things would have become a big issue.”
However, medical college superintendent Dr Peter Vazhayil said the nursing officer’s statement was baseless. The patient was on non-invasive ventilator in which the breathing tube would not get disconnected, he said.
In another incident of alleged negligence, information about a Covid patient’s death took three days to reach his family members in Kollam district.
Sulaiman Kunju (82) of Kollam’s Thalavur village was taken to a Covid treatment centre after he tested positive last month. His family was later told that he was shifted to the medical college hospital — the family thought it was at the hospital in Kollam but Kunju was actually shifted to Thiruvananthapuram. They received a call on October 16, saying the patient will be discharged, but when Kunju’s son Noushad visited the hospital he found that it was another person bearing the same name. The family’s search for Kunju then led them to the morgue at the Thiruvananthap-uram hospital, where he was tagged as an unidentified body after his death on October 13.
Kollam District Medical Officer V V Sherly said Kunju was taken to Thiruvananthapuram for better care and authorities had informed his family, who might have misunderstood the location.
However, Noushad said. “I had delivered food for him in Kollam. Staff collected the food but I never knew that my father was not being treated there. They always informed me that my father was getting better,” he said.
The DMO said, “If that is true, it was really sad and painful. But officials at the medical college have denied having collected food from him.”
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