Anxiety grips Bhopal gas tragedy survivors as hospital designated as COVID-19 facility

Several patients including critical ones were discharged to make way for virus-affected

March 25, 2020 03:33 am | Updated 03:33 am IST - Bhopal

After the Madhya Pradesh government designated the ICMR-run Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) as the State-level COVID-19 treatment facility and stopped all other services there, anxiety gripped the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors who depend on it for super speciality care.

“Only patients suffering from the infection will be treated there now,” read an order issued by Pallavi Jain Govil, Principal Secretary, Public Health and Family Welfare Department, on Monday.

“I undergo dialysis three times a week there. Missing even one session could cost me my life,” said Aqueel Ahmad, undergoing the procedure for 10 years. “In such a condition where will I go now? Even in the OPD, they say no doctor will see us.”

On Tuesday, several patients including critical ones were discharged to make way for the special COVID-19 facility. Four patients were discharged from the gastro medicine ward, three from the cardiothoracic and vascular surgery (CTVS), one from the CTVS ICU, 10 patients from gastro surgery, seven from urology, 28 from pulmonary, one patient from nephrology, two from neurology, 15 from psychiatry, 11 from neurosurgery and six from ophthalmology, according to BMHRC sources.

Giving the reassurance that alternative arrangements had been put in place for the patients, Ms. Govil told The Hindu , “The State government runs six dedicated hospitals for gas victims. They will cover all health care needs of the victims.”

So far, the State has recorded nine COVID-19 cases, with six in Jabalpur and one each in Bhopal, Shivpuri and Gwalior.

Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said, “Each day, around 4,000 survivors get their medicines from the hospitals. The government has taken away the only hospital that offers special services.”

According to an order dated March 24 and issued by Dr. Prabha Desikan, BMHRC Director, all other health services were stopped there with immediate effect till further orders.

Moreover, on March 21, rights groups including the Bhopal Group for Information and Action working for the welfare of the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan demanding adequate testing and critical facilities for them, in view of their heightened vulnerability to the pandemic.

According to the eight community health centres of the BMHRC, which cater to the survivors, wrote the groups, from 1998 to 2016, 50.4% of gas-affected patients suffered from cardiovascular problems, 59.6% from pulmonary problems and 15.6% from diabetes. Furthermore, 10,550 (1.84% of the survivors) had been given ex gratia compensation as cancer patients.

The groups pointed out that given the magnitude of the health hazard posed by the methyl isocyanate leak from a pesticide unit here in 1984, the Supreme Court had accorded the survivors’ right to healthcare the status of the Fundamental Right to Life under the Constitution.

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