Non-Covid patients’ suffering: A ‘private’ issue out in open
It has been over a month since Manish Kumar Tyagi, a ward boy at a government hospital, lost his three-year-old son who was refused treatment in at least two private nursing homes in the state capital.
“Had they treated my child, he might have been alive today,” Manish laments as he curses private hospitals daily. For he was in quarantine when his son took ill at night and precious time was consumed as his family visited private hospitals which refused treatment.
What kind of a doctor are you if you can’t treat a patient in an emergency,” he asks.
Manish has his reasons to be furious but when his family was desperately pleading with private nursing homes to admit the infant, private medical practitioners and nursing homes were struggling to come to terms with a government directive that required them to sign an affidavit issued by the chief medical officers and which among other things stated they could be booked under the Epidemic Act if found violating the rather ambiguous infection prevention protocol.
“It’s not just a case of one or two persons. Hundreds of non-Covid people have suffered during the lockdown because the private practitioners and nursing homes felt threatened and found it better to either close down temporarily or refuse to see patients showing any symptoms that remotely resembled Covid-19,” a private practitioner said requesting anonymity.
Dr Devesh Maurya, secretary, UP Nursing Home Association, had on May 20 written to principal secretary medical and health Amit Mohan Prasad about the need to ensure that no FIRs were filed against doctors for treating non-Covid patients who later turned positive.
On May 12, the government issued an order saying no police action would be initiated and no nursing home sealed even if infection was found in patients treated in hospitals following the infection prevention protocol.
But Devesh’s May 20 letter to the government is proof that despite government’s instructions, harassment continued locally.
“The order by CMO Lucknow asking for a signed affidavit which basically opens the doctor/nursing home to the possibility of police action is against the orders of the chief minister and the assurance given by health officials and hence needs to be modified,” Maurya said in his May 20 missive to the principal secretary medical and health.
“There is a revised order in place now,” said UP’s health minister Jai Pratap Singh who has just returned after touring 8 districts.
The problems, doctors admitted, existed with local administration.
Like while doctors elsewhere feared harassment, in Kanpur, district magistrate Brahmadev Tiwari wrote to the CMO about the need to allow home quarantine to doctors if a patient they treated for non-Covid ailment later tested corona positive.
“This letter, a follow up of our visit, has been issued by the DM, instructing officials that the doctors who are treating any patient who later turns out Covid-19 positive should not be treated as per the normal protocol and should not be harassed,” Dr Rita Mittal and Dr Gaurav Dubey said in a message to doctors in Kanpur after the DM’s intervention.
“The government’s intention is clear but problem exists locally. Aren’t doctors themselves conscious of their responsibilities” a private practitioner asked.
“Despite giving an undertaking that they would follow infection prevention protocol, permission to open nursing homes and clinics in places like Sitapur is subjected to multi-level checks/surveys,” a doctor said.