Mumbai: Task force doctor going to private hospital for treatment raises questions

Updated: Jul 02, 2020, 08:21 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

"The hospital was not authorised to divulge any details about the patient and that the state task force would be officially releasing a statement soon." However, the doctor hinted that the patient was doing well

BMC doctors and Asha workers scan the Dharavi area for people showing symptoms of COVID-19, on Wednesday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
BMC doctors and Asha workers scan the Dharavi area for people showing symptoms of COVID-19, on Wednesday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

A top doctor from Maharashtra's COVID-19 Task Force has been admitted to Fortis hospital at Mulund after testing positive for the novel Coronavirus, highly placed sources in the state health department told mid-day on Wednesday.

The doctor was brought to the hospital with breathing difficulty and was put on oxygen support. Citing confidentiality clause, a senior doctor at Fortis, Mulund, told mid-day, "The hospital was not authorised to divulge any details about the patient and that the state task force would be officially releasing a statement soon." However, the doctor hinted that the patient was doing well.

The decision of the task force's top doctor to prefer a private hospital to a civic one has raised eyebrows. Dr Ketan Vagholkar, professor and HoD of surgery at DY Patil Medical College, said, "The senior members involved in the COVID-19 treatment process should have faith in their own civic healthcare system. They should be in a position to seek treatment for themselves and their family members in their own institutions, if the need arises."

Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, an activist and the founder-trustee of Watchdog Foundation, also expressed his disappointment over members holding key portfolios in the state-appointed task force choosing to get treatment at private hospitals instead of a BMC-run hospital. "It has a direct implication on the morale of the frontline workers, who need to get motivation to stay in high spirits during this tough time," he said.

Sources close to the task force told mid-day that the member being treated at Fortis was behind several crucial decisions to control the outbreak, including the move to do away with the mandatory COVID-19 testing for patients receiving dialysis treatment for kidney failure.

The task force member is among the many senior doctors who have contracted the virus over the past few weeks. While some are fighting the disease in ICUs, others are in self-quarantine. Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital dean Dr Ramesh Bharmal is among those who self-quarantined. He resumed duty a few days back.

"After my colleague tested positive for novel Coronavirus, I had to quarantine myself as per the ICMR guidelines though my test came back negative. I continue to maintain a safe distance, get my office sprayed with disinfectants thrice a day, and I'm making use of technology for meetings." On being asked why task force members and college deans are getting affected, Dr Bharmal said, "As administrators, we are bound to meet people. We also have to check hundreds of file, move around the hospital premises."

Some suggested that a second team of COVID-19 task force should be set up in case of an emergency. "We have to ensure that senior doctors and experts who are in the state task force and those fighting the pandemic are protected, and that their safety, along with all those on the frontline, is prioritised. If our task force members and frontline workers are hit by the deadly virus, then where will the common man go and who would treat them?" Pimenta asked. It is high time the state government work on a second team task force to control the pandemic, which will only worsen with monsoon ailments setting in, he added.

Dr Ketan Vagholkar, professor and head of the department of surgery at DY Patil medical college opined that senior members of the state COVID-19 Task Force have initiated and set up an excellent process by which the disease is being brought under control. "However, a significant number of them are affected, requiring ICU care. Therefore, a second line of frontline task force members needs to be created as early as possible, thereby, ensuring smooth management.

He also suggested getting more experienced people on board, both from private and public hospitals. This, he said, will "evolve a strong treatment protocol, which will enhance the cure rate of COVID-19 patients." Dr Vagholkar also said that adequate measures must be taken to ensure senior members of the task force, including faculty of medical colleges, are well protected against the disease, which is important for a "smooth delivery of the treatment".

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