Row over suspension of Kerala nursing officer who raised negligence behind COVID-19 deaths in Ernakulam hospital

In her voice message, she mentions death of a Covid patient after ventilator tubes were out of place | CM says it is bid to tarnish govt’s efforts in Covid fight
Image used for representation only. (Photo | Shaji Vettipuram, EPS)
Image used for representation only. (Photo | Shaji Vettipuram, EPS)

KOCHI:  Kicking up a controversy, the Kerala Health Department on Monday suspended a nursing officer of the Government Medical College Hospital, Ernakulam, after the woman’s voice clip alleging negligence on the part of the medical staff of the hospital for some Covid-19 deaths surfaced on the social media.

Health Minister K K Shailaja, meanwhile, ordered an inquiry into the allegations of medical negligence at the hospital.

The Director of Medical Education, who has been put in charge of the probe, has been asked to submit the findings at the earliest. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that these issues are intended to tarnish the government’s achievements in fighting Covid.

“A detailed investigation is required into the origin and circulation of the audio clip, and the Health Department is already undertaking this,” he said. 

Workers of Yuva Morcha and Youth
Congress staged a protest at the entrance
of Government Medical College Hospital,
Kalamassery on Monday | A Sanesh

In her voice clip, Jalajakumari, the nursing officer, says a Covid patient died due to negligence when he was about to be shifted from the ICU to the ward.

The nurse also says that deaths of several Covid patients had happened due to medical negligence at the hospital.

“Instances of minor negligence from the staff has been noticed by the superiors during their supervision and rounds. They have not taken any disciplinary action because they know we all have been working hard in these times,” she says in the voice clip.

However, her suspension has courted a row with Opposition leaders strongly criticising the government action against the nurse who highlighted the negligence.

Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, in a tweet, said it was shocking that the nurse who revealed the negligence was “immediately suspended for telling the truth”.

“The nurse stated that the death happened because the ventilator tubes were out of place. This is clearly a case of medical negligence, and the relatives of the deceased are fighting for justice,” he said. 

Based on the voice clip, Hibi Eden, MP, lodged a complaint with the CM and health department.

“If the allegations raised against the medical college hospital are true, then it is a very serious offence. A comprehensive investigation should be initiated at the earliest and the health officials should not protect those involved,” said Hibi.

In the voice clip, the nursing officer mentions the case of the death of Fort Kochi native C K Harris, a Covid patient who was undergoing treatment at the hospital.

“The patient was on ventilator support. His condition had improved and when he was about to be shifted from the ICU to ward, the mishap happened and he died. Such incidents should not happen,” she says.

The voice message clearly mentions that it was meant for the staff at the hospital so that they would be at their best ahead of the Central health team’s visit to evaluate the Covid treatment provided at the hospital on Sunday.

Youth Congress and BJP Yuva Morcha members protested in front of the MCH seeking an independent inquiry after suspending the medical college superintendent, RMO, and principal.

MCH refutes charges

The MCH authorities have refuted all allegations of negligence. In a press release, Dr Peter P Vazhayil, MCH superintendent, and Dr V Sathish, principal, pointed out that nursing officer Jalajakumari has been on leave from last month.

She was also not a part of Covid duty.

“The allegations made by the officer are baseless. In her official explanation, she told us that she said those things to the staff so that they could remain cautious and prevent any mishaps,” the release stated.

“Harris was Covid positive. He had health issues, including diabetes, blood pressure, overweight and breathing issues. In addition to these, he had complications of Covid with pneumonia and respiratory issues. He was in a non-invasive ventilator (NIV), not a mechanical one. He was in no state to be shifted to the ward and was on 100 per cent oxygen support. The nursing officer’s allegations in the voice clip are not true,” the release stated.

MCH has treated and cured around 3,500 Covid patients so far, including those from foreign countries. MCH authorities have sought an investigation into the making of the voice clip and its circulation.

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