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2 more doctors in city die of Covid-19; 1 had to ‘wait 2 days for ICU bed’

By Rupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 29, 2020 12:30 AM IST

A 51-year-old general physician from Cheeta Camp, Trombay, died of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on May 26 at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, also known as Sion Hospital, after allegedly waiting two days for an ICU bed.

An ayurvedic doctor (general physician), who is in his 50s, from Andheri (East), also succumbed to the infection on Thursday afternoon at Somaiya hospital. He also used to practise as a vaastu consultant. Dr Bhagat Singh Patil, cultural secretary of Kurla doctor association, confirmed the fatality.

This takes the Covid death toll of doctors in the city to five, with the Sion Hospital death the third from M-ward, one of the hotspots in the city.

The Trombay doctor was brought to Sion Hospital early on May 24 by his 17-year-old son. As the hospital did not have a vacant ICU bed, the doctor was given a waiting-list number— 41 — and had to wait in a crowded casualty ward. His son said that owing to the lack of beds, patients were even lying on the floors between the beds. Finally, by the afternoon of May 25, he was shifted to the Covid ward, but succumbed to his infection the next day. “I kept requesting the doctors to give him a bed, but they told me that there were several like me who were making similar requests,” said his son.

The physician used to run a clinic in his locality and also worked with the government ambulance service — 108 — at night as an emergency doctor to attend to Covid-19 patients.

His family said he had complained of fever and cold for two-three days, but on May 23, he suddenly developed breathlessness. Around 11pm, he, along with his 17-year-old son, caught an autorickshaw and rushed to a nearby clinic. But they referred them to the civic-run Maa Hospital, which refused to admit the patient without a report confirming he had tested positive for the virus.

“It was around 12am when we reached Shatabdi Hospital, but owing to the unavailability of beds, they didn’t admit my father. By then, his condition had deteriorated further. He kept telling me to arrange for oxygen for him as he couldn’t breathe, but I was all alone and didn’t know what to do,” said his son on the phone.

The auto driver rushed them to Sion Hospital around 12.30am. His son said there was no stretcher and the auto driver and he carried the doctor to the casualty ward, where he was given a waiting number.

“On the second day, another patient was asked to share the same bed. So, my husband had to sit confined to a corner of the bed to make space. He needed to be in the intensive care unit (ICU), but he was kept only on oxygen supply for two days,” said his wife.

Around 12.30pm on May 26, he was declared dead. For two days, the doctor stayed at the casualty ward with the same clothes as no other family member came to help the teenager. “My siblings are too young (14 and 16 years) and my mother has never travelled alone, so I had no other option, but to take care of him alone. Due to lack of transport, other relatives couldn’t come,” said the son.

Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean of Sion Hospital, said that to address the issue of overcrowding of patients, they are trying to extend the number of Covid beds to 430. “We get one of the highest number of Covid cases in the city. Being a partially converted Covid hospital, we have to provide treatment both to infected and non-Covid patients.

At present, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has 645 beds in ICU. Out of this, 99% are occupied. Out of the 373 ventilator beds, 72% are occupied. Dedicated Covid Hospitals with severe cases have 6,099 beds. Out of this, 96% are occupied. This is as per the data released by BMC on Thursday.

“If anyone calls the helpline number— 1916 — it gets connected to a doctor who asked for symptoms of the suspected patient. Depending on the condition of the person, they will be allotted centres or hospitals for treatment,” said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner.

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