Rajkot: Amid a steep rise in the number of Covid cases in Rajkot, the city’s largest government facility, Civil Hospital, is dealing with two controversial incidents — an alleged physical assault of a patient and a procedural goof-up in another case.
The first case came to light after a video, which went viral, showed hospital staff physically assaulting a patient. The patient, a man, had been admitted to the Civil Hospital on 8 September for Covid treatment, and died several days later on 12 September. The video surfaced six days after his death.
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The patient’s family alleged he died of the assault and not Covid-19, but the hospital’s medical superintendent claimed in a video statement that he was mentally unstable and posed a threat to other patients.
The second incident involved a dead 70-year-old, whose relatives were asked to bring the body back to the hospital, while they were in the middle of performing the last rites, because the post-mortem examination hadn’t been conducted.
With news reports about these incidents emerging, the hospital has sealed its apex Covid building, and is refusing to disclose any information regarding the treatment and progress of patients or doctors while it deals with the uphill Covid battle.
When ThePrint visited the hospital Monday to meet the authorities, Additional Medical Superintendent Dr Jatin Bhatt said, “We are not talking to the press … any kind of information that is needed should be acquired from the collector’s office.”
The hospital also tightened security on the premises, leading to families fearing for the safety of patients.
“My mother is inside and I am scared after the incident. I don’t know how they are behaving with her and I cannot afford a private hospital,” said a patient’s family member who didn’t wish to be identified.
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In the viral video, Prabhashankar Patil, a kidney patient, can be seen being held down by a paramedic kneeling on his chest. The 38-year-old patient can be heard screaming “coronavirus” repeatedly, resulting in the staff roughing him up.
Asked for a comment, Vilas Patil, the brother of the deceased, said, “We are still in the mourning period and are in our village in Maharashtra. We are coming back in three days and we plan to seek justice from the authorities.”
Vilas said his brother was the sole breadwinner of his family. “Who will feed them now? His six-year old daughter has a tumour in her brain, who will pay for her treatment?”
Immediately after the incident, Jayanti Ravi, Gujarat’s principal secretary (Health and Family Welfare), denied the family’s allegations.
A staffer at the hospital said that since the video went viral, the staff has been under strict vigilance. “The attendant who shot the video has been suspended and two others who were found to be associated with sharing the video have been removed as well,” said the staffer.
On the same day of the video surfacing, the body of 70-year-old Batuk Kandolia was recalled from the crematorium while the last rites were being performed in Gondal, a village 40 km away from Rajkot.
“On 12 September my brother was brought from Gondal to Rajkot for treatment. He had met with an accident and was in a serious condition. He passed away from his injuries on 18 September. On the day of his death, the authorities made his death certificate and handed the body to us,” said Babu Lal Kandolia.
“Hours after we reached Gondal and were about to cremate his body, we received a call from the hospital saying that the post mortem (examination) for the body had not been conducted. We were asked to return to Rajkot with his body immediately,” said the 50-year-old, adding that his request for autopsy in Gondal was denied.
“We had to bring his body back the next day for an autopsy. We still don’t know how they issued a death certificate if the post mortem had not been conducted,” Kandolia said.
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Speaking about the assault case, District Collector Remya Mohan told ThePrint, “What happened with Mr Patil was unfortunate but he seemed to be out of control. He seemed like a strong man, which is why it took so many members of the staff to control him. He was taking off his clothes and scaring the other patients.”
“He was mentally unstable and the staff did the best of what they could in the spur of the moment,” she added.
In the case of Batuk Kandolia, Mohan said she wasn’t aware of any such incident and hence could not comment on it.
Hospital’s Covid battle
These developments come even as the Rajkot Civil Hospital deals with the Covid caseload in the city, which is the third most affected in the state. The hospital has added three new wards to deal with the increased work.
According to Dr Jay Dhirwani, president of the Rajkot Medical Association, a majority of the 110 doctors who have tested Covid-positive in the city are from the Civil Hospital.
“This is happening because of the high case load in the hospital. They collectively see at least 400 patients on a daily basis,” said Dhirwani.
A doctor working in the Covid ward of the hospital, on the condition of anonymity, said, “A lot of doctors in the hospital had tested positive and have come back to (work) immediately after recovery. The eight physicians in Covid ward in the initial months were working 24×7 with no replacement, and eventually tested positive one after the other.”
The doctor said the situation is similar for doctors in the medicine and anaesthesia departments. “Our personal lives and mental health have been affected due to the long hours and the infection.”
A team of 80 paramedics and resident doctors have been called in from Surat and Ahmedabad to help, said the doctor. Consultant doctors, however, are still in short supply, the doctor added.
“Our duties have been reduced to eight hours now after the teams from other cities were called in but our duty has been fixed to Covid wards for the time being. Working constantly in the Covid wards is stressful,” said the doctor.
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