COVID-19 | ‘Sometimes, we have to ask the police to get relatives to fetch bodies’

Resident doctor shares his experience of working at Sion hospital, where unattended bodies were found next to patients

May 10, 2020 12:37 am | Updated 07:35 am IST - Mumbai

Sharp spike:  Sion hospital has been seeing a sudden increase in patient inflow in a short period of time.

Sharp spike: Sion hospital has been seeing a sudden increase in patient inflow in a short period of time.

Days after a chilling video showing bodies wrapped in plastic sheets lying next to COVID-19 patients inside a ward at the civic-run Sion hospital went viral, a 28-year-old resident doctor has shared his experience of working at the hospital with The Hindu .

‘8 to 15 deaths a day’

The doctor said over 100 COVID-19 patients, some critical and others in the intensive care unit, are undergoing treatment at the hospital. He said every day, eight to 15 patients die of COVID-19 at the hospital and many get admitted with COVID-19-like symptoms.

The doctor said, “As resident doctors, our medical course starts with a lesson on human anatomy using a cadaver. We witness deaths every day as we deal with cases of trauma, heart attacks and other diseases. But witnessing people die during this pandemic has been disturbing. The patients seem stable, but their health then suddenly starts to deteriorate. They struggle to breathe and finally succumb to the virus. Medical intervention is impossible for patients who are admitted at the dying stages.”

‘Acute shortage of staff’

The doctor said the hospital has been struggling with an acute shortage of manpower and staff go about their duty in an atmosphere of fear. He said, “Some nurses just want to hold on to their pens and notebooks and are scared to approach patients. Senior doctors, barring a few department heads, come only for quick rounds in the ward and leave the entire responsibility on resident doctors. To prevent the spread of infection, relatives are not supposed to be let inside wards. But we don’t have a choice. We permit relatives to change the diapers of patients and tend to their other needs.”

‘No one to shift bodies’

The doctor highlighted the unavailability of Class IV workers to shift bodies out of the ward. He said, “It is also a task to find relatives. In some cases, we had to send the police to fetch relatives as they refused to pay heed to requests made by us over the phone.”

The doctor also pointed out that working with personal protective equipment (PPE) is cumbersome. He said, “The masks are suffocating and the non-porous suits induces a lot of sweat. There are no air-conditioners in the ward and it is also not advisable to run them as it could cause the spread of the virus. Drinking water or using the toilet is not possible till we finish our duty and remove the PPE.”

He said, “I have done 20-hour-long shifts at a stretch on many occasions. But the six-hour-long COVID-19 duty has been the most exhausting one in my life.”

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