3rd Mumbai doctor dies of Covid; wife says took 5 hrs to get bed
A general physician (GP) from Chembur died of Covid-19 on Thursday. He is the third doctor to die of the infection in the city and the second from the M ward, which is one of the red zones in the city. The case has highlighted the urgent need for a policy that ensures the safety of doctors practicing in containment zones. His wife, who is also a doctor, said that when the GP was in serious need of hospitalisation, the couple received no help from the helpline run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
On May 11, the GP, who ran a clinic in Chembur, developed a mild fever. He immediately shut down his clinic. After a blood test indicated the presence of the virus that causes Covid-19, he sent his swab samples to test for Covid-19 on May 14.
By the afternoon of May 15, the results hadn’t come in, but the GP had developed weakness and his oxygen saturation was below 88%. Other doctor friends recommended hospitalisation. According to his wife, the couple struggled from 3pm to 8pm to get him admitted. The BMC-run helpline (1916) was of no help. “First, they said there was one bed in Nair Hospital. When I agreed to admit him there, another attendant informed us there was no bed. They couldn’t give us any bed in Mumbai,” said his wife.
The couple also inquired with private hospitals, but to no avail. Ultimately, another doctor arranged for a bed in SRV Hospital. The next obstacle was finding an ambulance, which wasn’t immediately available. “It was a horrible experience. Despite being a doctor, I never thought that I would face this situation. I had read about unavailability of beds in hospitals but until you experience it, you don’t understand that it is real,” said his wife.
When they were finally able to admit the GP on May 15, he was rushed to the intensive care unit. He succumbed to the infection on Thursday, at around 7.30pm.
His wife remembered how he had insisted on keeping his clinic open as long as it was safe to do so. “He would say, ‘It is our duty...we can’t increase the burden on the corporation,” said his wife. “I would often tease him saying that because of him, I would get infected but never did I know that the same virus would kill my husband,” she said. He is survived by his wife and his mother, who have quarantined themselves at home, and a son who lives in the United States of America.
Other doctors say this case highlights the challenges faced by medical professionals during the pandemic. Dr Amit Thadhani, a surgeon and a friend of the deceased doctor, said GPs from small clinics should not be forced to practice if the conditions in their clinics make them vulnerable to the infection. “BMC is threatening the doctors that if they don’t practice, their license will be cancelled. But to practice in the hotspots, they require more precautions. It is extremely precarious to work in PPE and dispose of them properly in small clinics,” he said.
Dr Ninad Salunke of the non-governmental organisation Apnalaya said, “It is essential for the doctors practising in these red zones to take prophylaxis drugs and focus more on their immunity. Also, the corporation needs to come up with a policy for doctors in containment zones to ensure their safety.”
Despite repeated tries, Mahesh Narvekar, chief officer, disaster management cell, BMC, could not be reached for comment.