A family in Kerala's Ernakulam district has levelled allegations of negligence against a local medical college, saying their COVID-19 positive relative died under treatment in July, as he was not put on ventilator support on time. A police complaint has been filed over the matter, days after a contractual doctor on Covid duty at the facility spoke out about alleged lapses and mismanagement. The hospital has denied these allegations. The state human rights commission has asked the health secretary to probe these allegations of negligence.
The family, in its police complaint, said they got a call at noon from the hospital on July 24, that the complainant's 59-year-old brother was being shifted to ventilator support. At 2 pm, the family alleged, the officials told them a ventilator was being prepared and the patient would be shifted shortly. At 5.15 pm, they were informed that the man died while being shifted to the ventilator, they said. The hospital has not responded to this allegation yet.
Last week, another family had alleged death due to negligence in the hospital in July, after the audio of a nursing superintendent talking about alleged lapses went viral. A preliminary probe by the medical college administration, however, said the COVID-19 patient had several co-morbidities and had developed pneumonia. He did not die because of negligence, the report stated. The hospital has also refuted allegations of lapses made by the two medical practitioners.
The junior doctor told NDTV that she had reported the incidents of negligence to her superiors.
"A doctor told me how the tube connecting the non-invasive mask and the ventilator was off the mask of one of these patients. I have also had experiences, where the patient (name withheld) was connected, but the ventilator was switched off. There have also been delays in changing non-functioning ventilators. I did not lodge a complaint in a written or official manner. But I had mentioned verbally that there were lapses. There were also measures taken to rectify these," Dr Najma told NDTV.
"I contacted the resident medical official and told him about the various instances (of negligence), as concerns emerged this month. He asked me to share the same with the superintendent. But by October 19 evening, the clarification issued by the hospital was that there had been no such lapses. But no one from the hospital has contacted me despite the fact that I had mentioned these lapses (to her seniors). No one spoke to me or asked me for any clarification," she said.
Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja has ordered a probe into the allegations.
The Member of Parliament from Ernakulam, Hibi Eden, on Wednesday, said: "While thousands of doctors and nurses are working day and night to take care of patients, there has to be a detailed probe into these allegations to find the few conspirators. A probe by an expert panel is required and a criminal case should be filed."
The medical college, on Tuesday, said the allegations were false.
"This is a hospital where thousands of COVID-19 patients have been treated and the death rate is among the lowest in the state. The modern, state-of-the-art ICU facilities are under senior doctors. Teams with 15 doctors and 72 nurses are on ICU duties. At a time when the best treatment is being given to people free of cost to fight the pandemic, these allegations being raised against this hospital is an attempt to destroy the reputation of this institution," it said.