'No one taking care': Journalist Manoj's last text before COVID-19 death at Hyd hospital

The chat captures the seeming desperation that Manoj was going through at the government-run Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad.
Manoj Kumar
Manoj Kumar
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“ICU is not good. Please, let’s go to a private hospital. No one is taking care here.”

This was one of the last messages sent by Manoj Kumar, a journalist in Hyderabad who succumbed to the coronavirus last week, as he was admitted in the state-run Gandhi Hospital and availing treatment.

The message was sent to his brother, Sainath, at 3.46 pm on June 6. In less than 24 hours, 33-year-old Manoj was dead.

The chat captures the seeming desperation that Manoj, called ‘laddu’ by his friends and family, was going through. Stating that there was no proper response when he asked for oxygen support, Manoj texted his brother, “Please, let’s go from here.”

The chat was released to the media, even as Sainath released a video highlighting the condition of the COVID-19 ward at Gandhi Hospital, which is the nodal centre of the state government to treat all patients who test positive for coronavirus.

Sainath had also tested positive for coronavirus and was undergoing treatment along with Manoj. He was discharged from the hospital on Monday night, as he was asymptomatic and is presently under home quarantine.

Highlighting the sequence of events in the video, Manoj’s brother said, “On June 3, at around 11 am we went to Fever Hospital as Manoj was showing some symptoms. At around 3 pm, a test was conducted on both of us. We went home after that. Shortly after 10 pm that same day we got a call that we both were positive. We immediately went to Fever Hospital. At around 11 pm, they referred us to Gandhi Hospital. For one hour, there were formalities to fill. By 1 am, we were shifted to a ward on the seventh floor.”

Stating that they were given a bedsheet, a bar of soap and some toothpaste besides multi-vitamin tablets after being admitted, Sainath goes on to say, “Since the time we stepped into the ward at Gandhi, there were no proper facilities. No one took responsibility to give information to patients.”

“Manoj had breathing difficulty that same night. I thought I’d inform someone but I couldn’t see anyone in the ward or in the lobby. When I looked outside, only sanitation staff were there. They said we shouldn’t go out and that doctors would come the next morning,” he further added.

Sainath said that by the early hours of June 4, his younger brother’s situation got worse.

“I couldn’t bear to see it and kept trying to inform the doctors. I was agitated. As my brother is a journalist, I called some of his colleagues. They put pressure on the Superintendent and made several calls. At around 11 am, the hospital said they would shift him to the ICU. When they didn’t do so for around 4 hours after that, I asked them firmly and then they said that the ICU doesn’t have enough beds. I asked if they could place the (oxygen) cylinder in the ward itself and they said that even that is not available. That is the situation here,” he said.

“At around 4 pm on June 4, when I continued putting pressure, they took him out of the ward," Sainath said. For around 1.5 hours, he alleged that they put Manoj in a wheelchair and didn’t treat him.

It was around this time that Manoj is said to have messaged his brother, hoping to get treatment in a private hospital. Sainath said that it was only after Manoj’s friends in the media made calls to the Health Minister that they began taking good care of him and moved him to an isolation ward.

“Today (June 7) morning at around 9.30 am, I got a call that he is critical and being shifted to a ventilator. Within a little while, I got a call from the police department that my brother had died. None of the doctors had informed me. The situation is such that we have to put pressure for treatment. For normal people, it’s very difficult,” he said.

Another video played by local media outlets showed a stack of water bottles lying next to syringes in one corner of a ward in Gandhi Hospital. Several items were also seen strewn on the floor.

Telangana govt refutes claim

The state government, however, refuted the claims of lack of facilities at the hospital.

Without naming anyone directly, a press note from the Chief Minister’s Office on Monday said, “Some people are spreading lies that Gandhi Hospital is overflowing with coronavirus patients. Some newspapers and TV channels are reporting this fake news. But this is a blatant lie. In Gandhi Hospital, we have facilities to treat 2,150 patients. It has 1,000 beds with oxygen supply facility. As on date, there are only 247 corona patients at the hospital.”

Raja Rao, Superintendent, Gandhi Hospital, had earlier said that Manoj was treated by a team of doctors including physicians, anaesthetists and pulmonologists around the clock, but had a cardiac arrest and while he was resuscitated he couldn’t be revived and was declared dead at 9.37 am on June 7.

“Manoj is already suffering from Myasthenia Gravis, in which all the muscles have weakness, including respiratory muscles. For this, he underwent surgery also (his thymus gland was removed), and he is on steroids for that condition. With these comorbidities, he became COVID-19 positive and had bilateral pneumonia with type-1 respiratory failure and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). We tried our best but he couldn’t be revived,” the Superintendent said in a statement.

A resident of Madannapet, Manoj got married in September 2019 and his wife is pregnant. As his sister passed away a few years ago, he was looking after her child as well.

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