As the menace of coronavirus outbreak threatens to overwhelm the public health system in the country, overburdening the healthcare workers, a shocking case of gross dereliction of medical duty has come to the fore from the Cooper Hospital in Mumbai where at least 5 patients were left to fend for themselves for about 22 hours. According to the reports, the patients who were either COVID-19 patients or suspects were left unattended in the Hospital’s isolation and casualty wards for about 10 to 22 hours because attendants were terrified of touching them.
The traumatised patients were stuck in the ward that also had bodies of other patients who had died in the hospital. Their request to move the bodies was overlooked by the authorities until the videos and pictures of the ward were sent out and one of them described the pathetic conditions to a politically-connected friend who called up senior officials of the hospital and got the bodies moved. As per a report in Mumbai Mirror, Three dead bodies were in the isolation ward while two in the casualty ward.
One of the patients awaiting COVID-19 results was so disconcerted by the bodies on either side of his bed that he remained awake the whole night on Wednesday. The man, a heart patient, said he made several panic-stricken calls to his wife to request the hospital administration to shift the bodies but the bodies were removed only the next evening after she got in touch with a political leader and persuaded him to intervene. “More than the anxiety of the test results, the tribulation of spending the night with the corpses is gonna remained etched in my memory forever,” he said.
The deceased, Raghunath Jadhav, 58, a flower seller at Santacruz, had died at 6 pm on Wednesday, but his son Ganesh, 29, was handed over the body at 4.30 pm the next day. Another deceased, Rachana Mane’s grandmother, remained in the isolation ward for about 10 hours. She died in the wee hours on Thursday but her body was given to her family only after 4:30 PM.
The Cooper Hospital Dean Dr Pinakin Gujjar contended that the inordinate delay in shifting the bodies was because the staff members had refused to wrap the bodies of the deceased and the Juhu police arrived late for the panchnama. Gujjar also added that the plausibility of coronavirus infection in all the five cases was pretty high. He stated that the patients whose bodies were left unattended in the hospital’s isolation and casualty ward were suffering from co-morbid conditions but they also exhibited symptoms of carrying COVID-19 infection.
Gujjar also issued a clarification that there are no shortages of high-quality body bags to wrap the deceased. He said that the hospital had received 70 body bags just a day before yesterday. Akhil Chitre, vice president, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, said he is going to write a letter to Health Minister Rajesh Tope. “I am going to demand an investigation. Workforce management at Cooper must improve,” he said.
As per some staff members quoted by the Mumbai Mirror report, the hospital has definitely erred on not following the recommended measures. According to one doctor, the body of the suspected/confirmed cases of COVID-19 cannot stay unwrapped for more than two hours.
A similar case was reported in West Bengal recently when a viral video from a Kolkata hospital showed patients sitting helplessly as the dead bodies of coronavirus patients around them remained unattended.