Shivaji Sonawane (56), who was posted at Kurla traffic police division, was hospitalised on April 21. He had been suffering from fever for a few days, but it was after he started losing consciousness that his son rushed him to the hospital. A police officer said Sonawane was turned away from Rajawadi hospital and referred to Kasturba Hospital. However, he could not be admitted to Kasturba Hospital either. Doctors there told his son to take him to KEM Hospital. All three hospitals are run by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Dr Vidya Thakur, Superintendent of Rajawadi Hospital, said, “I will have to check why this patient was not admitted. Sometimes, the family does not provide us the patient’s correct medical history, which makes their clinical assessment difficult.”
BMC spokesperson Daksha Shah said she was not aware of the case, and would need to get details from the hospitals. “No BMC hospital turns away a patient unless there is no bed available.”
When doctors at KEM Hospital said they could not treat him, Sonawane’s son contacted the senior police inspector of Kurla traffic division, who in turn contacted senior inspector of Bhoiwada police station. It was only after he spoke to hospital authorities that Sonawane was admitted. He was on ventilator support for the last two days, an officer said.
This is the third COVID-19 death in Mumbai Police. On Friday, a constable posted at Vakola police station succumbed to COVID-19 and another constable died on Sunday. A total of 107 policemen, most of them posted in Mumbai, Thane and Pune, have tested positive so far. Seven of them have recovered.
The deaths of three colleagues within a span of 96 hours has rattled the constabulary. “There is a fear that police personnel can catch the virus while being deployed on the frontlines, or doing desk work in an office or even while commuting to and from work,” said a state police officer.
It is a convention for senior officers to visit families of personnel who die in service, but they have not been able to follow this in the case of these three constables.
The family of one of them, however has received condolences over the phone from the highest level of the force and the government. “Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and DGP Subodh Kumar Jaiswal called us to express their condolences and offer any assistance we may require,” said the son of the constable who died on Friday. The home department has announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakh and a government job to a family member of each of the constables who died.
While policemen have been provided N95 masks, gloves and face shields, the constabulary is concerned about the exposure to the virus. “Senior officers do not want me to touch registers that we pass them though we are wearing gloves. At every public place, it is the constable who interacts the most with residents. There is no telling where and from whom we will contract the infection,” said a constable.
Personnel above the age of 50 or suffering from diabetes or hypertension have been kept away active field deployment.