The Kerala police department has suspended one of its personnel, Abhilash, who was working on deputation at the Kochi Metro, for allegedly assaulting a doctor who was on duty at a hospital in May. The incident took place on May 14 at the District Hospital in Mavelikara in Alappuzha. Rahul Mathew, a surgeon working at the hospital was on the night shift on May 14 and the assault happened after Abhilash's mother, who was a COVID-19 patient, was brought dead to the hospital. Abhilash allegedly slapped Rahul Mathew, alleging that his mother died because of the latterâ€™s negligence.
The hospital is not a COVID-19 hospital but a triage centre that provides assistance for patients who are asymptomatic and isolating at home. Triage centres offer assistance to patients if they develop any symptoms or difficulties and also categorise patients on the basis of the severity of the disease. The centres then send the patients to hospitals, first-line treatment centers or back to their homes, after assessment. The hospital provides 12 hours triage service from 8 am to 8 pm. Three medical officers are in charge of the triage centre at the hospital and one of the medical officers is on duty at night.
"On the day it happened, I was the medical officer who was on night duty. By 4.20 am, the patient was said to have been brought in, due to her deteriorating condition. The patient was the mother of the police personnel. They had a pulse oximeter (handy equipment that can measure a person's oxygen level in the blood) with them, but there was no reading in it," Rahul Mathew tells TNM, as he recalls the incident. Upon further examination, it was found that the patient was brought dead.
"There were three or four people with her and her son was agitated. He had destroyed a table at the hospital by then and began talking in a harsh manner and using abusive language," Rahul says, adding that it takes nearly three hours to release the body of a patient who is brought dead, as the police has to be informed, to rule out any suspicion related to the death. The patient, he further says, was bedridden as she had rheumatoid arthritis. Rahul also claims that he came to know from a relative that the womanâ€™s oxygen level was deteriorating on one earlier day, but the family followed the advice of a nursing assistant who was their relative and didn't take her to the hospital.
Abhilash returned to the hospital by 7.20 am with a friend. "He asked me if I was the doctor who examined his mother. He suddenly tried to strangle me, slapped me and hit me on my back. He also verbally abused me. The person who was with him tried to provoke me saying that I can hit him (Abhilash) if I wanted to. Their intention might have been to provoke and put me on the spot if I reacted angrily,â€ť Rahul alleges.
The Mavelikkara police have booked Abhilash under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 43 of the Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention Of Violence And Damage To Property) Act, 2012. Abhilash, who Rahul Mathew alleged was hesitant to conduct the COVID-19 test, finally took the test and tested positive for the coronavirus a few days later. He is presently under quarantine and has moved the High Court seeking anticipatory bail in the case.
"We are yet to arrest the accused because there is a Supreme Court order in May that people who are COVID-19 positive or those in quarantine should not be arrested and sent to jail in cases where the gravity of punishment is up to three years only. In this case, the patient was his mother and he was a primary contact," Prigi G Station House Officer of the police station told TNM.