KOCHI: The back-to-back incidents of Covid patients being sexually assaulted by designated care-givers have shaken the conscience of the state and left the administration, particularly the health department, shamefaced. Even a cursory investigation reveals significant procedural lapses, and callous attitude on the part of officials involved, opine experts.Though there is a system in place for taking care and transporting Covid patients to Covid First Line Treatment Centres (CFLTCs) and their homes, the incidents reveal that there is no proper method for tracking the patients being transported and ensuring their safety.
“The two incidents point to failure on the part of the government and administrative authorities. There are some very serious lapses on the part of the health department that are hard to explain. Firstly, the department appointing a person with known criminal background as a 108 ambulance driver; and secondly, the absence of a female attender or staffer accompanying the patient, are foremost. When the ambulance was getting delayed, no one bothered to track its location or status. If this was done, things would have been different and a heinous crime averted. There are staff employed for 20 hours in shifts to monitor and track such things,” said Dr Abraham Varghese, IMA state president.
At a time when every citizen looks up to the state to provide succour from the pandemic, such cases, where trusted protectors themselves turn predators, strike fear into every mind. “We are living in times when no one can be trusted. Such incidents make life even scarier. After our shifts, we are dropped at our homes in either buses or ambulances. We cannot trust anyone at this point, even if we know the drivers,” said a staff nurse working at MCH, Kalamassery.
Following the directives of the state government, Noufal, the ambulance driver and the junior health inspector Pradeep Kumar were suspended.“Initially, when patients were discharged or when they were taken to the CFLTCs, they used to have another staffer accompanying them. However, a shortage of staff has hit many districts. All the District Medical Officers have been given clear instructions to not allow any Covid patients to be transferred to CFLTCs after 7pm unless it is a critical requirement. They will also be responsible to ensure the patient’s safety,” said a health official.