Doctors at Hyd’s Gandhi hospital stage protests after attack by COVID-19 victim’s kin

Doctors say the COVID-19 patient who died had removed his breathing mask against their advice and tried to go to the toilet.
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Doctors at Hyderabad’s Gandhi hospital staged protests on Tuesday night after the relatives of a COVID-19 patient who passed away attacked doctors on duty. 

Doctors at the hospital said that two of the patient’s relatives, who were there as his attendant, threw plastic and steel chairs at two on-duty doctors when the 55-year-old patient with a history of diabetes and hypertension, collapsed while he was trying to go to the toilet unassisted by hospital staff.

Doctors said that the patient was breathing through a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, (CPAP) machine [a machine used to help a person breathe] and that he was advised not to remove. However, doctors say that the patient removed the breathing mask to go to the toilet but collapsed en route. 

The 55-year-old man had been admitted to Gandhi Hospital as he was diagnosed with SARI and tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday. The patient had been admitted to the Acute Medical Care (AMC) ward, where all other 65 beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Speaking to TNM, Dr Shashidhar of the Telangana State Junior Doctors Association, said that the patient did not heed doctors’ advice and removed the machine to go to the toilet.

“We started non-invasive ventilation called CPAP as the patient was not maintaining regular oxygen. Once the Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is removed, the patient cannot breathe. We explained this and the situation to the patient for the past three days, but despite the warning, he removed it and went to the washroom. Immediately, he fell down and we rushed towards him. The ward staff brought him back to the bed and we used CPR to revive him but couldn’t save him,” the doctor said.

The doctor added that shortly after the death of the man, the patient’s relatives went on a rampage, accusing the doctors of neglect. Two postgraduate doctors and three house surgeons were present at the 65-bedded ward. 

“He threw a plastic chair that hit a doctor’s elbow and a steel chair that hit the hip of another doctor,” said Shashidhar. 

The man was taken into custody by the police. Several junior doctors from Gandhi hospital then staged protests outside the hospital, demanding the Telangana government to form a special protection force to protect the on-duty doctors attending COVID-19 wards. Two people have been arrested in connection with the incident so far.

‘Why was a patient attendee inside a COVID-19 ward?’

This is not the first time that doctors at Gandhi hospital have been assaulted by relatives of deceased COVID-19 patients. Earlier in April, two COVID-19 patients attacked on-duty doctors after the death of their relative, who was also undergoing treatment for the virus in the same ward. This attack had sparked a protest at Gandhi by doctors and paramedics. The Telangana Health Minister had condemned the attack with the Telangana police promising more protection for the doctors.

Shashidhar said that little had changed at the hospital since then. 

Referring to this particular incident, the doctor pointed out that the patient attendee who went on a rampage was never supposed to be allowed inside the Acute Medical Care ward as it exposes the attendee to 65 other COVID-19 positive patients.

“No one is following any rules or guidelines. The security guards should not be allowing attendees to enter the wards,” he said. No police personnel was present at the time of the incident, he added.

When asked why no one came to assist the 55-year-old COVID-19 patient when he went to relieve himself, the doctor said that there was a shortage of staff at the hospital. 

“There are only three paramedical staff for an ICU set up, whereas the requirement is 20. The state government has to recruit more ward boys, nurses and doctors,” Shashidhar said.

The doctors say that the union intends to protest until the Telangana government provides them with protection. “We will not be seeing asymptomatic patients. We will be on duty to treat COVID-19 patients,” the doctor added.

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