Dr Sudhakar Rao raised the lack of medical safety gear at the Narsipatnam Area Hospital in a video. He was suspended shortly after for speaking against the government.

Was told to use same mask for 15 days Suspended AP doc to TNMImage:Screenshot
Coronavirus Coronavirus Thursday, April 09, 2020 - 17:52

Dr Sudhakar Rao, an anaesthetist with 20 years of experience at the Narsipatnam Area Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, has come under fire from the state government soon after he alleged a shortage of protective gear for medical workers, including doctors.

Dr Rao was suspended for speaking against the government in a video even as YSRCP, the ruling party, alleged that he was acting at the behest of the Opposition to denigrate the government. The TDP, meanwhile, claimed that the doctor was made a scapegoat for exposing lapses both in providing protective gear to medical staff and the government’s management of the COVID-19 crisis.

As both parties continue to lock horns amid the pandemic, TNM reached out to Dr Sudhakar Rao to seek his explanation on the incident. 

Speaking to TNM, the doctor lamented that his concerns towards his personal safety and the safety of his colleagues, the medical staff at the hospital, had become a problem. 

He said, “Even though it (Narsipatnam) is an Area Hospital, they have conferred it as a hospital for COVID-19 referrals. But they have failed to provide any medical protective gear to anyone. When I asked the pharmacist in the hospital, he gave me one mask and asked me to sign for it while suggesting I use the same for 15 days.”

According to Dr Rao, he wanted to raise the issue with the concerned district-level officers and called them over phone but they were unavailable. The doctor said that he initially went to the local MLA who was in a review meeting at the Municipality Office with the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), District Coordinator of Health Services (DCHS) and other officials.

“I tried to reach the MLA and explain the seriousness of the problem but I was not allowed to meet him. On the other hand, the RDO said that I don't require masks or PPE since I am an anaesthetist. How can anyone say that? Being a doctor, I move closely with patients who may or may not be symptomatic,” asked the doctor.

“When hospital staff do not have any medical gear, people who are away from medical services, like politicians, higher officials and the police have the standard N-95 masks. Aren't the medical staff supposed to get all that?” asked the exasperated doctor.

When asked about the YSRCP’s allegations that he was acting at the behest of the TDP and that he had been meeting with TDP leader and former Minister Ayyanna Patrudu prior to the incident, he said, “Even now I will say I have gone to meet him but it was only after I was refused a meeting with the MLA. Since I didn't get any response from the MLA, I went to Patrudu because he was the Hospital Advisory Committee Chairman. I thought maybe he can help out in the matter. But anyway, the meeting didn't happen as he was unwell.”

The doctor alleged, “Doctors were not given enough respect, a police inspector thrashed me using foul language. What expertise does the police officer have in the subject to interfere and push me away? Do I deserve that for working for the people? I have been in service for the last 20 years. I have been working in this Area Hospital for the last 8 years.”

When asked if he wished to report back to duty if the government allowed, Dr Rao said, “I said a few things about what was happening in the hospital in a fit of anger as I was concerned. They automatically suspended me by conducting a surprise inquiry. I'm not a supporter of any party. Being a responsible doctor, I give importance to my patients. I don't want any publicity. I will do my work sincerely as a senior doctor. I will not go and join without PPEs being given to all, including nursing and sanitisation staff. Otherwise, we would definitely be affected by COVID-19.”

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