Coronavirus outbreak: 3 days, 4 hospitals later, woman dies of COVID-19

Updated: Apr 08, 2020, 07:57 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Labour union alleges that 55-year-old patient died following negligence and poor treatment, calls for high-level probe

The isolation ward at Byculla Railway hospital
The isolation ward at Byculla Railway hospital

The National Railway Mazdoor Union (NRMU) has called for a high-level probe into the death of a COVID-19 patient who was admitted in three different railway hospitals over the weekend. The union has alleged serious lapses and mismanagement on part of the hospitals in handling the patient.

Three major railway hospitals — Divisional Railway Hospital, Kalyan East, Jagjivan Ram Hospital (JRH), Mumbai Central (HQ — Western Railway hospital) and Dr BAM Railway Hospital, Byculla (HQ-Central Railway hospital), have come under the scanner in the incident.

Railway officials informed mid-day that around 10 pm on April 3, P Sarita (name changed), 55, a resident of Kalyan West, whose husband is a former railway worker, was taken to the Divisional Railway Hospital, Kalyan over breathlessness and fever. She had no foreign travel history. Sarita was admitted to the ICU where she came in contact with the casualty staff, ICU doctor, housekeeping and two nurses (four people). The treating staff suspected it to be a case of Covid-19 and she was referred to Kasturba hospital.

A surgical ward at Byculla Railway Hospital
A surgical ward at Byculla Railway Hospital

On April 4, around 1.30 am, Sarita was taken to JRH hospital from Kasturba hospital as she turned out to be Covid negative. JRH (a designated Covid-19 hospital) did not admit her since she was a non-Covid patient. The relatives were asked to take her to Dr BAM railway hospital, Byculla.

Around 3.30 am, she was finally taken to Byculla railway hospital as she continued to be breathless. An on-duty nurse examined her and found low oxygen saturation levels.

The staff was only wearing a mask and no other protective gear. Meanwhile, a senior doctor on duty, suspecting it to be a case of Covid, advised that she be admitted in the isolation ward of the hospital.

At 10 am the next morning (April 4), a male patient with cough and fever was admitted to the isolation ward, a few beds away from Sarita. The patient along with his relative had entered the ward through the same entry point that Sarita and her family had used.

At 3.07 pm that day, Sarita's swab was sent to Metropolis laboratory for testing while her condition continued to deteriorate. The isolation ward did not have a ventilator facility. The swab of the male patient was also collected around the same time.

At 11 pm that night, the male patient's report arrived, testing him negative for Covid-19 and he was discharged.

At 8 am the next morning (April 5), Sarita was shifted to JRH hospital as her condition worsened. By then, an NRMU union member had learnt about the mismanagement and an ambulance was arranged by Byculla railway hospital but the relatives and ambulance driver were not given any protective gear.

At 3.40 pm, Metropolis lab sent her report to Byculla railway hospital and tested her for Covid-19 positive, sending the staff at Byculla hospital into panic mode as nearly seven to eight medical personnel had come in direct contact with Sarita during her stay there.

NRMU soon intervened in the matter and took up the case with higher railway officials and one doctor, two nurses and one attendant at Byculla hospital were put into quarantine late on April 5.

Around 8 pm the next day (April 6), Sarita was declared dead at JRH hospital.

'Fix responsibility'
Venu Nair, general secretary, NRMU (National Railway Mazdoor Union), said, "We have already brought the matter to the notice of senior railway officials and our union has asked for a high-level probe in the case to fix responsibility. Also, all the doctors, nursing staff and paramedics including housekeeping and ambulance driver (primary contacts) along with secondary and tertiary contacts should be identified and quarantined. The hospitals (Kalyan, Byculla and Mumbai Central) should be fumigated and disinfectants sprayed before it is thrown open for public."
A union member added, "The railway administration should report the incident to the health department, at both Centre and state and take corrective measures." A senior railway official said, "We are looking into the issues raised by NRMU. It is unfortunate, but we will take the required corrective measures and get to the bottom of the matter."

Rules broken
With regard to isolation wards, a source at Kalyan railway hospital said, "Directives from the ministry of health clearly state that isolation wards must have separate entry and exit points. In this case, the patients in isolation have used the same entry as other patients, their relatives and even doctors/paramedical staff."

Also, at Byculla hospital, the isolation ward can be reached only after passing the chemotherapy centre and the blood bank.

Sources revealed that the husband and children of the deceased have now been kept in quarantine at Kalyan railway hospital and so have the staff of the hospital.

Patient timeline

April 3: 10 pm
Patient taken to Kalyan railway hospital for breathlessness

April 4: midnight
Patient shifted to Kalyan railway hospital for breathlessness Patient taken to Kasturba hospital

April 4: 1.30 am
Patient shifted to JRH hospital, Mumbai Central

April 4: 3.30 am
Patient shifted to Byculla Railway Hospital

April 5: 8 am
Patient shifted back to JRH as her condition deteriorated

April 6: 8 pm
Patient declared dead at JRH

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