Kerala

Kerala Health Minister orders suspension of nursing officer who sent out audio clip

Activists of the Youth Congress stage a demonstration in front of Government Medical College, Kalamassery, on Monday, alleging that a patient had died due to negligence of the medical staff.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Health Minister K.K. Shylaja has ordered the suspension of a nursing officer at the Government Medical College Hospital (MCH), Kalamassery, after an audio clip sent out by the officer suggested that negligence of the staff at the hospital while treating a COVID-19 patient had resulted in his death.

The Minister has also asked the Director of Medical Education to investigate the issue and submit a report.

In the audio clip, the officer identifies herself as Jalaja Devi, nursing officer at the Ernakulam Medical College. She explains that the audio clip was being sent out with instructions to the staff to prevent any lapses, before the team of health officials from the Centre arrived at the hospital on Sunday. In the clip, she asks staff to ensure that all equipment was in place and functioning, and sufficient oxygen supply was available.

“Patients’ oxygen masks are often not placed properly and ventilation tubes need to be checked. Patients have died because of this. Doctors have reported it, but have not seen it as our failure. We have not been punished because we work hard. The lives of patients have been lost because of small lapses like this and we have been told of these problems and asked to avoid such lapses. A patient named Haris was to be moved to the ward, but the ventilator tube was not placed properly. He died and his family had complained. But to protect us, doctors did not reveal this and it did not turn into a big problem,” the officer is heard saying.

The nursing officer had explained that she had only sent the clip out on an internal group as a reminder to the nurses in the ward to be more vigilant, said hospital Superintendent Peter Vazhayil. “There have been no lapses from our side. We do not know in what circumstances the nursing officer has made a statement like this. She has been on leave for a month and does not have the authority to make such a statement,” he said.

The patient named in the audio clip, C.K. Haris, was treated at the hospital for about a month and was given good care, he said. “The hospital has been treating critically-ill COVID-19 patients and our mortality rate is very low,” added Dr. Vazhayil.

Haris’s sister, C.K. Sainabi, a resident of Thuruthy, said the family had raised concerns with the doctors at the hospital soon after his death. “It was very sudden. He had spoken to his wife only a little while before he died,” she said. The 48-year-old resident of Palluruthy died on July 20, she said, adding that the family would write to the State government to ensure they were given an explanation on his death.

Baseless charges, says hospital

A statement issued by hospital Superintendent Dr. Vazhayil and Principal V. Satheesh said that the patient had diabetes and hypertension, besides COVID pneumonia. He was not on a mechanical ventilator but was on non-invasive ventilatory support in which a tube was unnecessary. Since he was on oxygen support, moving him to the ward was not possible, their statement said. He was given all necessary treatment for the 24 days that he was at the hospital. The contents of the audio clip were baseless and untrue, they said.

Chennithala writes to CM

Politicians, including Hibi Eden, MP, and V.K. Ebrahim Kunju, MLA, have written to the Chief Minister asking for an investigation and action against the concerned staffers. Mr. Eden, who met the family, said the patient’s relatives had been asked to purchase a BiPAP machine by the hospital. It was not returned to them after the patient’s death, but when they raised an issue, the hospital reimbursed the money paid for the device, he added.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has written to the Chief Minister slamming the Health Department’s decision to suspend the nursing officer and suggesting that the suspension was an attempt to cover up a lapse by the department. He has also called for an investigation by a team of medical experts.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 5:17:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/kerala-health-minister-orders-suspension-of-nursing-officer-who-sent-out-audio-clip/article32894501.ece

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