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Madhya Pradesh: 5 survivors of Bhopal Gas Tragedy die of Coronavirus

The Madhya Pradesh state government had converted BMHRC, a dedicated medical facility for gas mishap survivors to COVID-19 facility, leaving the gas tragedy survivors with no medical care

All five patients who died of Wuhan coronavirus on Wednesday in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, were survivors of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984. Some organisations working for the welfare of the survivors of the ghastly tragedy wrote on March 21 to concerned authorities, saying that such people are more susceptible to the infection than normal individuals.

Rachna Dhingra, member of the NGO Bhopal Group for Information and Action told PTI that the conversion of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Center (BMHRC), a dedicated facility for the treatment of gas mishap survivors, into a medical facility for coronavirus patients had caused severe hardship to the survivors of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

“Far from heeding special attention to the needs of Bhopal gas victims, the state government took control over BMHRC and turned it into a medical facility for Covid-19 patients,” Dhingra said adding, “for the last 22 days, no gas victim was even allowed to avail emergency services there.”

Dhingra said that the first victim of the coronavirus in the city, a 55-year old man, died at a city hospital because of the negligence of the authorities. Another octagenarian gas tragedy victim, who was a retired employee of the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), was also not given proper medical attention. He breathed his last on April 8 and his swab sample came out positive for coronavirus on April 11, Dhingra said.

Yet another gas-tragedy victim, a 40-year old who was ailing from oral cancer for more than a year, too perished of the coronavirus on April 12. His sample came out positive later, Dhingra said. In addition, one 52-year-old gas mishap survivor, who had a history of co-morbidities such as tuberculosis died because due care was not given in treating his respiratory illness. He was later tested positive for the coronavirus and died while he was being shifted to COVID-19 ward at Hamidia hospital, she said. Besides, a 75-year-old journalist, another gas tragedy survivor died on April 11 and her test came out positive for the virus on Tuesday, Dhingra said.

In a letter tendered by several organisations writing on behalf of Bhopal Gas Tragedy, victims asserted that the survivors were at least five times more vulnerable to the coronavirus that normal individuals. Instead of providing special medical treatment to them, the state government transformed the BMHRC into COVID-19 facility for coronavirus patients, Dhingra alleged.

According to Dhingra, after the hospital was converted into a COVID-19 treatment facility, all except 5 Bhopal Gas Tragedy survivors were discharged. Out of these 5, a 68-year-old woman died at the hospital due to gas mishap related diseases, she said.

After it was made a hospital for COVID-19 patients, all except five were discharged. Out of these five, a 68- year-old woman died at the hospital due to ailments related to the gas mishap, she said. Out of the gas tragedy survivors who were discharged from BMHRC, two persons, both aged around 70, died at their homes and one died at a city hospital due to gas leak mishap related malady, she added.

The NGOs wrote a letter addressed to BMHRC’s monitoring committee chairman, retd Justice V K Agrawal, highlighting all these aspects and requesting him to re-start the medical facility for gas victims considering their vulnerability to infection. Furthermore, a writ petition has also been filed at the Madhya Pradesh high court by the NGOs, seeking a dedicated medical facility to be provided for the treatment of the gas tragedy, as was the practice earlier.

Taking cognisance of the death of the gas mishap survivors due to coronavirus, the state government has decided to categorise BMHRC as a ‘COVID Health Centre’ where gas tragedy survivors can continue to avail treatment for their maladies. An order to this effect was issued late Tuesday evening, a health department official said. 

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