IMA probe into deaths of doctors in Bihar points to multiple causes
Continuous work without any leave, administration of just one vaccine, lack of oxygen and ventilators during the peak of the second wave, poor infection control in hospitals and inferior quality of PPE kits and other protective gear are some of the reasons that have emerged to account for the increased fatality of doctors during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The reasons emerged after an investigation carried out by a committee formed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Bihar Branch.
With nearly 100 doctors from Bihar succumbing to the infection during the second wave of the pandemic - more than three times the figure during the first wave last year - the IMA had on May 21 constituted an eight-member committee to investigate the reasons behind the high fatality rate of doctors. As part of the investigation, the committee distributed forms in a prescribed format to the family members of the deceased doctors to elicit their response on certain issues.
IMA president elect Dr Shahjanand Prasad Singh said lack of oxygen and ventilator availability during the peak pandemic period also affected doctors, who worked without breaks both in the government set up and private set up at the call of chief minister Nitish Kumar and health minister Mangal Pandey. “Patna alone has over two hundred private hospitals, but only 90 could get oxygen supply. Some big hospitals also could not get oxygen supply. However, dedicated to their service and bound by the Hippocratic oath, they kept working. Sometimes social distancing also could not be maintained with patients, as the doctors kept their doors open. Sometimes the doctors also fumbled by not wearing masks properly or removing it,” he added.
Singh said the doctors who had taken both the doses of vaccines were relatively safer, while those who could not take the second dose for whatever reasons and kept working despite risks seemed to fall prey to Covid-19. “There have also been instances of secondary infection or blood clots in chests. It is a fact that this time there was an explosion of cases within a short period, but the doctors and healthcare workers responded to the challenge with full devotion even at the cost of huge risk,” he added.
Dr. Sunil Kumar, state secretary of the IMA and a member of the investigation committee, said the responses through the forms given to the family members of the deceased doctors had started arriving. “The reasons that are emerging point to continuous work, inferior quality of PPE kits and poor infection control, while several doctors have been found to have taken just one dose of vaccine. More responses are awaited. Once all the responses come, we will put the report in the public domain,” he added.
Last year, a Central team visiting Bihar’s first dedicated coronavirus disease (Covid-19) facility, Nalanda Medical College & Hospital (NMCH), in Patna, had flagged poor infection control in hospitals and underlined the need to provide a safer working environment to instil confidence among frontline healthcare workers, especially doctors. Later, training programmes were also organised for doctors and healthcare workers to improve safety for them.
Dr Sunil Kumar, who had released a full list of deceased doctors from Bihar, said that the high fatality rate was a cause of concern and therefore, the IMA had decided to investigate the matter so that timely steps could be taken in future.