Kin accuse hospitals of negligence; VIPs getting preference in ICU admission, testing, says Allahabad HC
A distraught Ambar Srivastava stands outside the mortuary at a government hospital, waiting to receive the body of his mother who died early on Monday after struggling for days to find necessary treatment.
Mr. Srivastava alleges that his mother, who was 67, died due to negligence by the hospital staff. He says they failed to administer oxygen to her in time. However, an official of the government-run Lokbandhu Shri Raj Narayan Combined Hospital denied the allegations but said he would look into the matter.
Mr. Srivastava’s ordeal over the past few days typifies the struggle faced by patients in Uttar Pradesh, especially Lucknow, in securing hospital beds, oxygen supply and medicine in time as COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise.
Mr. Srivastava’s mother was admitted to the hospital at 2 a.m. on Monday. Kanak Srivastava, a diabetic with blood pressure and thyroid illness, was initially admitted to a private hospital here, but after her COVID-19 status turned out positive, the hospital asked the family to shift her elsewhere as they did not have the necessary quarantine facility, her kin said.
Even as her oxygen levels continued to drop, Mr. Srivastava says he spent over 24 hours calling up the COVID-19 control room but failed to secure a bed. The family had to support her with an oxygen cylinder they purchased as the private hospital ran out of supply. However, following his appeals on social media, he managed to get his mother admitted to Lokbandhu.
‘Was not given oxygen’
“Her oxygen levels dropped to 67-70 but she was fine at night. In the morning, she was breathless. My brother approached the doctors and the staff but they did not provide her with a cylinder,” Mr. Srivastava alleged. Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Ajay Shankar Tripathi, said he would get Mr. Srivastava’s allegations checked but maintained that there was no shortage of oxygen supply. The hospital had a stock of 265 cylinders besides the separate pipeline in the ICU, said the official. Mr. Srivastava submitted a complaint, demanding strict action against the staff for their “gross negligence.”
Many families also narrated how the delay due to running around from one hospital to another had led to deterioration in the condition of patients. In Varanasi, Vishal Sahu, a law student, managed to get his mother Laxmi Devi admitted to a government hospital more than a week after she reported ill and after three-four days of desperate search. His mother is a diabetic. While it was difficult to find beds in government hospitals, the private facilities simply refused, said Mr. Sahu. “Private hospitals said the condition of the patient was bad and that they do not have Level-3 COVID infrastructure,” Mr. Sahu said.
His mother got tested on April 10 at a private laboratory. The results, however, came in three days later, he said. Since then, she was at home and all attempts made by the family to purchase oxygen cylinders proved futile. “We wasted all these days at home. After admission to the hospital, her oxygen level is under control—it is 91 with cylinder support—but she has become very weak and is unable to speak,” said Mr. Sahu.
Lockdown in 5 cities
While directing a lockdown in five cities of U.P., the Allahabad High Court on Monday took note of the issues in testing and treatment. While VIPs were getting their RT-PCR reports within 12 hours, the ordinary citizen was kept waiting for two or three days, the court said. It added that it emerged from the government hospitals that admission of patients to ICUs was largely being done on the recommendation of VIPs.
The judges termed the state’s early testing scheme or plan “a farce”. If hospitals are not able to provide beds and oxygen, cities like Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur and Gorakhpur cannot provide medical aid to even 10% of the population at any given point in time, the court said.