After the brother of a deceased COVID-19 patient from Aluva filed a complaint with the Kalamassery police alleging medical negligence, a police inquiry has begun.
The police said that the complaint was of a similar nature to that filed two days ago by the family of C. K. Haris, another deceased patient from Palluruthy, and a simultaneous inquiry would be conducted in both cases.
Haris, who died of COVID-19 in July, was named in an audio clip sent out by the nursing officer at the Government Medical College Hospital, Kalamassery. The officer had suggested in the clip that Haris had died because the staff had failed to place his ventilator tube properly. Meanwhile, a junior doctor, Dr. Najma Salim, who told a section of the media on Tuesday that the issues raised in the audio clip were likely to be true, has filed a complaint with the Kalamassery police. A few social media handles had wrongly alleged that she was part of the Kerala Students’ Union, and had portrayed her in poor light, she wrote in her complaint. She was also afraid of an attack against her on the basis of such posts on social media, she wrote.
Dr. Najma Salim said that she had previously alerted her superiors verbally to the fact that ventilator tubes and oxygen masks were sometimes not placed properly.
Questions around the deaths of three patients have been raised so far and she had known all three patients though she was not around when they died, she said.
In Haris’s case, a doctor on duty then had told her about the circumstances of his death, she said. “In the case of the two other patients, there were lapses, but I did not say that the negligence led to their deaths. They died a while after such lapses were noticed,” she said. Despite repeating that she was not part of a political party, allegations continued to do the rounds on social media prompting a police complaint, she said.
The police said that the complaint had been forwarded to the cyber cell for further action.
Nisthar K.A., who has filed a complaint alleging negligence in the death of his brother, Byhakki, who died of COVID-19 in July said, “The junior doctor’s statements made us question the circumstances around his death and we decided to proceed with filing a complaint,” he said. C.K. Sainabi, Haris’s sister, said that the family had been told that his condition was getting better a week after he was admitted. He was not in a critical condition when he was admitted to the hospital. The news of his sudden death had come as a shock and they were not told that he had died of a cardiac arrest, she said. While the family had complained to the hospital Superintendent soon after his death, they had received no response. Haris had not complained to them of any lack of medical attention, but negligence towards the end might have cost him his life, she said.
Rights panel order
The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has directed the Secretary of the Health Department and the Principal of the Government Medical College Hospital to conduct an inquiry and submit a report on the allegations that there were lapses in the treatment of COVID-19 patients at the hospital.
SHRC Chairman Antony Dominic has asked for the reports to be filed in three weeks. In its directive, the commission pointed out that the allegations were serious and that the audio clip had been brought to its notice.
The allegations had tarnished the reputation of the medical college and damaged the morale of the health workers at the institution, said a statement issued by the Ernakulam unit of the Kerala Government Medical College Teachers’ Association (KGMCTA). The hospital has been working relentlessly to fight the pandemic over the past nine months. While the KGMCTA supported an inquiry into the matter, the public and media organisations must refrain from engaging with the reactions that would damage the image of the hospital, their statement said.