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Refused care in Delhi, COVID-19 patient travels 700 km by rail, dies in hometown

Bhopal Railway Station. File

Bhopal Railway Station. File

After his father, showing COVID-19-like symptoms, was turned away by two government dispensaries, one hospital and three private doctors in New Delhi in five days, Sanjay Singh* pinned his hopes on Bhopal, their hometown, and booked his father’s train ticket online without informing him.

“We thought if not at a hospital, then at least at railway stations his illness will be caught during medical examination,” said Mr. Singh. But the 42-year-old’s illness went undetected at the railway stations in both the cities, one national and the other State capital, despite claims of a robust screening mechanism in place. And within a day of making the 700-km journey, he died at the ICU ward of Hamidia hospital here of COVID-19 on June 7.

In a bid to contain the virus’ spread, the Bhopal administration is now tracing 13 of the deceased man’s contacts based on a report received from the Indian Railways. “We will collect their samples,” said Tarun Kumar Pithode, Bhopal Collector.

While a Railways official said it was the district’s responsibility to screen passengers, Mr. Pithode argued district teams had been assigned to the Railways to be deployed accordingly.

‘Time wasted’

When the man, who worked in the electronic media in New Delhi, stepped outside the Habibganj station here, his condition shocked his brother who had come to receive him. “He was getting breathless while talking, and couldn’t even walk 10 steps. Hopping from one doctor to the other, a lot of time had been wasted in Delhi,” said the brother, a technical staff at the Hamidia Hospital.

First, the man booked an auto rickshaw for himself to the government-run J.P. Hospital, by when his oxygen saturation, ideally 95-100% in a fit person, had dropped to 36%. “He showed me a thumbs-up as he was given oxygen support, indicating he was doing better,” said the brother. When doctors sensed his situation had deteriorated considerably, they referred him to the Hamidia Hospital, where he tested positive and died later while on a ventilator.

“Only after that the government woke up,” said his brother, who started getting numerous calls from the police, district authorities and the Railways after that. “The Bhopal administration even declared a containment area where my house is located, although my brother stayed in New Delhi. How could they be so negligent? My family is now being stigmatised by neighbours,” he said.

Turned away

After his father felt feverish on May 29, said Mr. Singh, an 18-year-old who’s taking coaching for NEET exam here, he approached three local doctors in Mayur Vihar phase 3 of New Delhi. “But no one dared touch him,” he recalled his father telling him on the phone. Then he approached a dispensary, which turned him away too.

Burning with a 102.5 degree fever, he drove to a hospital in Anand Vihar and was told by doctors there he must immediately get tested as he showed symptoms of COVID-19. “While travelling he met with an accident, injured his knee. Still he mustered courage to visit a hospital which tests,” said Mr. Singh.

At the GTB Hospital, a designated COVID-19 hospital, his father was told they hadn’t begun testing yet. “I called them from Bhopal, confronted them, told them it’s mentioned on their website that they are a COVID-19 hospital but they refused to budge,” said the son, now admitted to a private hospital here pending sampling. Later, another dispensary refused to help.

Losing all hope, the man returned home. “He had become weak and had an injured knee. I asked him to come here, but he replied: ‘no, beta , the government in New Delhi here is good’. That’s when I booked his ticket,” said Mr. Singh, who said he found Bhopal’s atmosphere, and medical services, much better.

‘No one replied’

Mr. Singh pointed out he had made more than 50 phone calls and written several emails, even to the Prime Minister’s Office, asking for help. “No one has replied to me so far,” he said.

On hearing the news of the man’s death, his mother suffered an asthma attack and is now admitted to a hospital in New Delhi. The man is also survived by a daughter, 15, who has also tested positive for COVID-19.

(* name changed to protect identity )

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 8:38:46 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/refused-care-in-delhi-covid-19-patient-travels-700-km-by-rail-dies-in-hometown/article31789327.ece