Bhopal: The lack of value for human lives in the government-run hospitals of Madhya Pradesh continues even amid the pandemic. Six COVID-19 patients, who were survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, have died in the last two weeks in the state capital due to the lack of treatment and unavailability of beds, while the government washes its hands off responsibility, allege gas survivors’ organisations.
This news comes after four people reportedly died due to lack of oxygen in Dewas district, a week ago. Earlier a nine-day old decomposed body of a man was found in the mortuary of Indore’s government-run MY Hospital. Two days later, a dead body of a newborn was found lying unattended for days in a carton in the same mortuary on September18.
The gas survivors’ organisations allege that the gas tragedy survivors, who were being treated at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC), a dedicated hospital for gas-hit victims, lost their lives because the hospital admin not only failed to provide them treatment and ventilator, but also failed to refer them to any other COVID-19 hospital.
BMHRC is a super speciality hospital built to cater to the medical needs of Bhopal gas victims and is currently being run by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The 10-bed isolation ward with four ventilators was created at the BMHRC with an aim to keep seriously ill gas-hit victims who are diagnosed with COVID-19 till they are transferred to a dedicated COVID-19 hospital.
However, since all the beds were occupied and there was no doctor to treat them as per COVID-19 treatment guidelines, they were left at the mercy of paramedical staff, the organisations have alleged.
“This is criminal negligence and mismanagement by a Government of India owned super speciality hospital,” alleged the organisations fighting for gas-hit victims’ rights in a joint press release.
According to sources, more gas-hit victims may lose their lives as all 10 beds and four ventilators are still occupied and several patients are waiting in the isolation ward to be treated or transferred to other COVID-19 dedicated hospitals.
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“The gas-hit victims are neither getting ICU beds in government-run AIIMS, Hamidia nor in private hospitals like Chirayu, JK Hospital. They were left to die in BMHRC isolation ward without treatment,” said Champa Devi of Chingari Trust, one of the organisations which is signatory to the joint press release.
The gas-survivor organisations have also written to the Supreme Court appointed Monitoring Committee the Survivor Groups and shared the details of the deaths of gas-hit victims at BMHRC.
In the letter, the organisations also alleged that not only are the COVID-19 positive and suspected cases left to die in the isolation ward at BMHRC, but even those “gas victims in need of ICU facilities, Pulmonary, Neurology, Gastro Surgery and Neurosurgery are being refused admission in the hospital”.
Notably, as per data obtained under RTI, almost all of these departments have reduced admission of gas victims by two to 11 times in comparison to non-COVID times, NDTV reported.
Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh said in the press note, "BMHRC's motto is “in service of gas victims”, but this hospital is doing every disservice possible by wilfully ignoring the medical needs of the most vulnerable population to COVID-19. ICMR is supposed to be guiding the country in dealing with COVID-19, and in Bhopal they have completely failed to do so.”
“The city is facing shortage of Oxygen and ICU facilities for COVID patients. Keeping the vulnerability of gas victims in view, BMHRC should have prepared for this crisis. We are hopeful that the Monitoring Committee will direct BMHRC to start a 40 ICU & HDU (high dependency unit) bed unit to cater to gas victims suffering from COVID-19 at the earliest,” Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action said.
While the director of BMHRC was unavailable for comment, the public relations officer of BMHRC Mazaurllah said, “I’m not aware of this matter, but will reply after consulting the doctors.” However, he didn’t respond even after 12 hours.
Commenting over it, a member of SC appointed monitoring committee Purnendu Shukla said, “We have already sought details from BMHRC about the gas victims who were found COVID-19 positive and how many of them were referred to the COVID-19 dedicated hospitals for the treatment. But, I haven’t received any response yet.”