Unattended bodies in casualty ward traumatise patients

Insufficient patient care providers at Gandhi Hospital delays disposal

July 22, 2020 10:42 pm | Updated 10:43 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Patients being wheeled into Gandhi Hospital are forced to wait for a few hours before a bed is vacated and sanitised.

Patients being wheeled into Gandhi Hospital are forced to wait for a few hours before a bed is vacated and sanitised.

A horrifying issue is challenging the efforts of doctors and healthcare staff in boosting the morale of critical COVID-19 patients at Gandhi Hospital. Thanks to the issue of insufficient staff, the bodies of victims remain in the midst of patients undergoing treatment in casualty ward for two to three hours until they are taken for cremation.

This delay has a direct impact on the confidence of existing patients under treatment. What’s more, patients being rushed on wheelchair to the casualty ward (also known as Severe Acute Respiratory Infection or SARI ward) are forced to wait for long, until the beds are cleared of the bodies and sanitised. Root of the problem is inadequate number of Class-IV employees and ward boys at the hospital.

Currently, there are 200 outsourced Class-IV employees, 110 patient care providers, and 150 ward boys on permanent basis who are assigned various tasks. Some among the Class-IV employees are given the task of shifting the bodies.

Sources at the hospital said the delay in clearing corpses from SARI ward has been a recurring problem for the past several days. They stressed that more ward boys and patient care providers have to be appointed to resolve the issue at the hospital which is being identified as a ‘Centre of Excellence for COVID-19 Care’.

Apart from 31 beds with oxygen facility in SARI ward, there are 20 more beds in another casualty ward. “The 31 beds with oxygen supply are always full. And there is constant flow of patients into the ward, even from other districts. Some of them will be on wheelchairs waiting for ventilator support which can be provided only if a patient vacates a bed. In such pressing situations, there is delay of three or more hours in clearing a body. The latest such incident was on Tuesday night. Two people were declared dead at around 6.30 p.m. and their bodies were not cleared from the ward till 11 p.m. Meanwhile, two others were brought dead at night. PG students took the issue to the notice of officials,” sources said.

COVID protocol

When a COVID patient dies, they are given a few medicines as last-ditch attempt to resuscitate them. Doctors wait for around 45 minutes to see if the drugs take affect. Thereafter, ECG is used to declare the death of the patient. This process of waiting for medicines to kick in and ECG takes around an hour. After death is declared, the body is taken to the mortuary for further process, including entering their details in register and taking photos of the deceased.

“Though the deaths are declared, there is delay in clearing the corpses. This is observed from past many days. Patients undergoing treatment express fear seeing the bodies in the ward. We need more ward boys and patient care attendants at the earliest. This has to be addressed to justify the ‘Centre of Excellence’ tag,” sources said.

Recruitment, however, has been a challenge given the stigma attached to COVID duty at Gandhi Hospital.

More appointments

Nonetheless, there is hope of the disposal issue getting resolved in the coming days with officials of Health department saying that permission has been granted to recruit 224 more patient care providers at the hospital. “The process is under way,” senior officials said.

Hospital authorities also confirmed that the recruitment process is on.

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