As many as seven staff members working at the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) hospital at Sanath Nagar in Hyderabad and eight patients who were admitted the hospital for other ailments tested COVID-19 positive. Close to 100 staff members have been placed under quarantine at the hospital. The hospital administration claims they have been unable to figure out how the staff got infected and denied that the patients acquired infection at the hospital.
The ESIC hospital has also filed a police complaint against a nurse, accusing him of making 'several allegations' against the hospital.
ESIC is a self-financing social security and health insurance scheme for Indian workers under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Six nurses and an operation theatre technician working in different parts of the hospital and who have had no contact with each other were the ones who tested positive on Thursday. As many as 8 patients, many of them admitted for kidney and cancer treatment at general wards also tested positive, confirm multiple sources.
However, the staff alleged that the hospital administration did not inform them directly that they had COVID-19. "They were not given the medical reports, they realised they were positive when GHMC officials came to their house," alleged a nurse while speaking to TNM.
Out of the seven staff who tested positive, one was a nursing orderly tasked with keeping COVID-19 samples in the lab refrigerator. A source close to the nursing orderly told TNM that the refrigerator used for storing COVID-19 samples had been emanating a foul smell, and alleged that the nurse was only wearing an N95 mask while handing the COVID-19 samples, and not a full PPE kit.
â€śThe nurse was working in the general ward and kept moving about in different departments meeting doctors,â€ť said the ESIC nurse.
A few of the staff members TNM spoke to said they were disappointed that the hospital was trying to blame staff for 'spreading panic', and alleged that quarantine norms had been flouted by many in the hospitals, including by those in the top rung. A nurse alleged that a representative of the Medical Council of India (MCI) who had visited the hospital on May 29, tested positive on June 4.
"The day the MCI representative had come to ESIC, there was a delegation of close to 30 hospital staff to receive the doctor ignoring social distancing norms. On June 5, they did RT-PCR testing on nine doctors who were primary contacts. The tests were negative but none of them followed mandatory quarantine," alleged another staff member. The staff also further alleged that even the Medical College dean Dr M Srinivas, who had interacted with the MCI official, was not quarantined.
The hospital staff showed TNM a slip of admission issued to the dean which said, "request for admission in COVID-19 casualty".
When TNM contacted Dr Srinivas, he refused to deny or confirm his quarantine. "How can you ask if I am under quarantine? We are following ICMR guidelines of contact tracing and the doctors do not fall under the ICRM definition of contact. These allegations are by vested interests, I canâ€™t speak to the media," was all the doctor had to say while warning cases will be booked against hospital staff for speaking to the media. The doctor refused to comment any further.
Speaking to TNM, KK Paul the nodal officer for COVID-19 and medical superintendent for ESIC said, "A few staff members have tested positive. Those under quarantine are kept in the isolation ward along with the patients. There is no hospital-acquired infection at the hospital,". The officer did not wish to comment any further on the allegations raised by the hospital staff.
Staff working at the hospital fear backlash from the hospital administration who has already filed a cybercrime case against a medical record technician for a status on WhatsApp.The Hyderabad cyber crime police have booked an FIR against the staff nurse whose mobile phone was confiscated by the police. The administration on Friday issued a circular warning of action against staff for speaking to media., â€śOn Saturday night the administration tried to shift the positive staff to Gandhi Hospital citing they are talking to media. The police got involved and ensured the staff didnt get shifted. ESIC is fully capable of doing testing and treating COVID-19 patients but the dean wants to transfer their own staff to Gandhi Hospital as a form of harassment,â€ť the staff alleges.