Coronavirus patient made to wait under tree at KEM for 13 hours
A 33-year-old woman suffering from a kidney ailment and who has tested positive for coronavirus had to wait under a tree for close to 13 hours at the city’s biggest civic-run hospital, King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, owing to “unavailability of a bed for a coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patient”, on Friday. The civic body’s health department is holding an inquiry into the matter, which counts as a violation of safety of the patient and others during a pandemic as the woman may have transmitted the virus to people at the hospital premises. The patient was waiting near the entrance of the old KEM building, where many doctors, patients and their kin usually walk by.
On Friday, the patient from Vile Parle, who has been on dialysis for the past four years, was diagnosed with Covid-19 after a swab test at a private laboratory. The Shanti Charitable Trust, based in Vile Parle, which helped her undergo the test, sent the patient to Nehru Nagar Health Post, Vile Parle. The doctor-in-charge referred the patient to KEM Hospital with a letter that read, “She (the patient) has done her last dialysis on April 9...her test was done on April 8 and came positive of Covid-19 on April 10. So, kindly admit the patient.”
As per protocol, the police dropped the patient at KEM around 12 noon on Friday. But she was refused admission due to unavailability of beds for coronavirus patients. The has 16 isolation beds under emergency medical service and another 30 beds in ward 4A. All these beds are occupied most days, said doctors.
“We weren’t even allowed to sit inside the hospital when the guard got to know that my wife is a Covid-19 patient. Since they asked us to wait outside, we waited under a tree at a tea stall inside the hospital premises,” said the patient’s husband.
After waiting till 11.30pm, the hospital’s guards started forcing them out of the hospital. “They abused us and accused us of spreading the infection by sitting on the ground,” he added. When the patient asked for an ambulance, the hospital refused to provide one. “I couldn’t take her to Kasturba Hospital without an ambulance. They didn’t provide us one and the police there also refused to help us,” he said.
When HT got to know of the incident, this reporter informed Dr Daksha Shah, deputy health officer, who immediately jumped into action to transport the patient to Kasturba Hospital. The ambulance service refused to get to the hospital until they got a direct call from a staff member to ferry the patient. Despite repeated calls, Dr Hemant Deshmukh, dean of the hospital, did not respond for a comment.
It was around 12.30am that Dr Shah got an ambulance sent from Kasturba. In the meantime, KEM Hospital agreed to admit the patient and she was finally admitted to the Covid-19 ward. But due to unavailability of beds, the patient was kept on a stretcher. “They have run two more tests on me and have put me on saline. So far, [till Saturday 4pm], I haven’t been given any medicines. They have kept me on a stretcher until they can avail a bed,” said the patient on phone. Dr Shah said she has initiated an inquiry against the hospital staff .
Patients with comorbidities such as kidney failure are most vulnerable to the virus. Despite this, keeping a patient waiting without providing basic protective gear outside a hospital is a gross violation of safety of the patient and others at the hospital, said activists.
“If the hospital didn’t have any bed, they could have sent the patient to another one in an ambulance. Not all hospitals have Covid-19-specific dialysis centres, so the patient was referred to KEM Hospital. The staffers risked so many lives by keeping patients exposed inside hospital premises,” said Jitendra Tandel a counsellor at Runga Kalyan Seva Samajik Sanstha.