Private hospitals turned away India’s first COVID-19 victim

Ramkrishna Badseshi , Donita Jose

KALABURAGI/HYDERABAD: A day after it was confirmed that the 76-year-old Kalaburagi man died of COVID-19, becoming the country’s first casualty, the family has said that he could have perhaps been saved had he not been turned away by hospitals. That would have also ensured that he did not infect numerous others.

The son of the victim told TNIE that they first took the ailing man to a private hospital, Sunrise, in Kalaburagi for treatment, but it declined to admit him. This was on March 8. The next day, the authorities at Sunrise Hospital insisted that he be taken to Hyderabad. “We were not ready to go to Hyderabad, but they forced us to take our father there. We took him to Hyderabad, but none of the hospitals were ready to admit him as he had returned from Dubai,” the son said.

“At Hyderabad, we roamed around in the ambulance from 4 pm on March 9 to 2 am on March 10, but we could not get our father admitted in any of the hospitals. We actually lied at Care Hospital so that they would admit him. However, within two hours, they came to know and discharged our father. As we had no other option, we brought him back to Gulbarga Institute of Medical Science (GIMS) and Hospital where the doctors declared that he was brought dead,” he added.

The administrator of Sunrise Hospital in Kalaburagi said, “Our hospital is not equipped with an isolation ward. We could give only emergency treatment and we did our duty.” Kalaburagi Deputy Commissioner Sharath B claimed, “The family took him to Hyderabad against medical advice. Immediately after coming to know that they had taken the patient to Hyderabad, we sent a team to bring him to GIMS. But when he was brought back, the doctors declared him brought dead,” he defended.Meanwhile, the Telangana State Rapid Response Team has identified 34 primary contacts in Hyderabad who came in direct contact with the victim.

Express spoke to the Director of Public Health, Hyderabad, who noted that these 34 people are primarily from two private hospitals in the city, and the ambulance staff which transported the patient to the city.
“The people were identified two days ago and have been asked to isolate themselves in their homes. They have no symptoms of COVID-19 as of now and are fine,” said G Srinivas, Director, Health, Government of Telangana. He said the cause of worry was minimum as the Kalaburagi patient was in the city for barely 10-12 hours, and had brief interactions with staff and doctors, who had taken all necessary precautions.
In Kalaburagi, several questions were being raised over how the death was handled. As the man was suspected to be infected with the virus, the health department and district administration should have kept an eye on him and persuaded the family to admit him in the isolation ward, medical experts felt.

When the man was brought dead to GIMS, the hospital staff had placed the body near the mortuary door and people had walked by. Some people were allowed to take the body in an ambulance for performing the last rites, without wearing masks and gloves. The son has been giving interviews to the media from Thursday night to Friday morning, and even speaking to the public though the authorities claim that the family members have been quarantined. How could the authorities allow this, they asked.

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