Fake machines, theft and apathy mar Gujarat’s Covid-19 fight

With 12,905 cases and rising, what will come of the much touted Gujarat Model?


As the number of coronavirus cases in Gujarat surged to 12,905, with 5,488 having recovered and 773 having passed away, Gujarat’s medical crisis is seeing no signs of abating. Nearly 50 percent of the total coronavirus infection deaths in Gujarat have been reported from the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. The hospital has now allegedly earned the moniker of the “Covid-19 graveyard” due to as many as 351 patients losing their lives to the coronavirus there.

Allegations of negligence, theft and delayed reportage of death at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital

A 44-year-old Umesh Tamaichi in Kubernagar who was a lawyer at the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court and a six-feet-tall fitness freak, succumbed to Covid-19 on the morning of May 16 at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. However, his family only got to know of his death in the evening. Kalpana Gadgekar, his sister, told The Indian Express, “My brother died in the morning and we received a call from someone in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in the evening asking us to check saying that ‘he might be dead’. When we checked at the hospital, they confirmed his death.”

When Kalpana asked why she wasn’t immediately informed of her brother’s death, the hospital said they tried to reach her number but couldn’t get through – a reason most that has come to be most commonly used by the hospital. What is more surprising is that Umesh’s mobile phone and watch were allegedly missing from his person and the hospital had no explanation regarding it! They have now registered a complaint of theft at the Shahibaug police station.

Another ordeal is of 64-year-old Kishore Shah’s. He was rushed to the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital’s trauma centre on May 13 after he reported oxygen saturation level at 55 per cent and low blood pressure at a private clinic. Three days later, he died. Sagar (30), Kishore’s son told the publication, “From the trauma centre, he was taken to the 1,200-bed Covid hospital. They made us wait till 6 PM since morning, and then said he will be admitted at GCRI (Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, also a Covid hospital). No one told us whether he was Covid-19 positive or not, no one even let us stay at GCRI, no doctor spoke to us either, on what was wrong with him.”

The next day Sagar went to the hospital with a mobile phone and fresh change of clothes to be given to his father. He wasn’t apprised of the diagnosis again. “I don’t think the phone was given to him because no one responded on it. On May 16, at 9:30 AM, I called the ICU ward phone number that was provided by a contact and I was told he was on ventilator support. At around 11 AM, our contact told us, he had died. Since May 13, we received absolutely no official update on his health status from the hospital, not even when he died. It was only because I knew someone that I got to know,” he said.

Sagar added that his father, Kishore had stayed without food for the whole day of May 13 while waiting to be admitted. He was told that Kishore was Covid-19 positive only when he went to take his body. No details of Kishore’s treatment were given to Sagar. He said, “We got his body without much delay only after intervention from our MLA Imran Khedawala. The gold jewellery he was wearing and the money he was carrying were missing. There was no response from the hospital on this so we filed a complaint with Shahibaug police station on May 18.”

Azharuddin Shaikh, a resident of Rakhiyal, a containment zone, who lost his 75-year-old father on May 12, also told IE, “As per the hospital records, my father died at 4:30 AM, while we received a call six hours later. The family is put through trauma, first because of this delay and then running from pillar to post for “claiming the body”. Shaikh could finally take his father for burial at 1 AM on May 13.

Worried about his mother and elder brother who also tested positive for Covid-19 and are currently at the same hospital, Shaikh said that there is no communication from the hospital authorities on their condition.

The relatives of textile worker Ganpat Makwana who was admitted to the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital on May 10, found out that he was Covid-19 positive after reading a daily medical bulletin on patients issued by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). He was found dead at a bus stop on May 15 about a kilometer from his home. The family only learned about his death when they were called to identify an unclaimed body. They were allegedly not informed that he had been discharged from the hospital!

Sheepish explanation: No system in place

Officer on special duty (OSD) of the hospital, Dr MM Prabhakar, on Thursday said that a system had been put in place to keep relatives in the loop about the death of Covid patients. Till then, there were several complaints about the hospital not passing on timely information to the relatives.

He said, “We have received complaints. There wasn’t a proper system in place till now, which has now been done. Today Pankaj Kumar (bureaucrat overseeing overall Covid-19 operations in Gujarat) gave us 30 people and four phones to communicate with relatives. The team will ensure that the treating doctor informs the control room about the death and the control room then informs the relative. We will keep a register to record the valuables of a patient at the time of admission. We won’t allow anything other than mobile phone and send other items with the relative.”

Bhailal Amin General Hospital shuts for a week

Meanwhile, the Bhailal Amin General Hospital (BAGH) at Gorwa has decided to suspend operations and shutdown for a week, after 18 staff associated with the hospital tested positive for Covid-19 in the last fortnight. The management said that it was still undecided whether it would reopen as a Covid-19 dedicated centre on May 28. The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) which had formed a committee to inspect the hospital and check if the SOPs were in place, said that it had found no lapse in the hospital arrangements.

A physician, his wife who is a gynecologist, an intern doctor, nurses, some staff of a catering and housekeeping agency offering services at the hospital had tested positive.

Health officer Dr Devesh Patel told IE, “The committee submitted its report and it did not find any lapse on the part of the hospital. We have not asked the hospital to close down but they may have buckled under the pressure of the criticism.”

An official of Alembic group that owns BAGH said, “We have faced undue criticism and pressure from many political leaders, who have been critical of our corporate entity after some of our corona warriors tested positive. We have decided to close down at the moment and we are not sure if we will reopen to offer Covid-19 care.”

In a release issued on Wednesday, the hospital said that the decision to close down temporarily was taken to so that the employees could be ‘pool tested’ and the premises, disinfected.

BAGH has treated 12 Covid-19 patients who have all recovered from the virus.

Fake ventilator controversy

The fake ventilator scam was exposed by Ahmedabad Mirror when it was revealed that the 900 machines fitted at several government hospitals, were not exactly ventilators, despite the Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani, calling them so.

According to the report, the machines manufactured by Jyoti CNC, were only tested on one patient before 900 of them were installed all over the government hospitals. A top health official from the state government told Mirror, “According to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (1940), ventilators fall under the C and D category of medical devices for which license is required from the Drug Controller General of India. It therefore falls under the purview of the Central government and not the State government.”

Parakramsinh Jadeja, allegedly a friend of CM Rupani, confirmed that he hadn’t received the license from the Drug Controller General of India and that the trial of the Dhaman-1 machine had been only conducted on one patient. He, however, claimed to be following central guidelines because the test was conducted in a lab approved by National Accreditation Board of Laboratories for ISO 86101 and IEC60601 in front of the ethical committee of the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. 230 of these so-called ventilators are in the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital currently.

With substandard machines, theft, apathy and sheer negligence, is the Gujarat Model set to crumble and destroy the lives of the innocent battling the Coronavirus?

(Sources: Indian Express and Ahmedabad Mirror)


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