The Gujarat High Court, while delivering an order on the poor conditions prevailing in Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital, quoted an anonymous letter written by a resident doctor which claimed “mismanagement” and “irregularities” there could turn doctors like him into “super spreaders” of the novel coronavirus.
The division bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and IJ Vora said it cannot ignore the content of the “very disturbing letter”, which was written by a doctor who worked in the non- COVID section of the hospital, tested positive for the virus and then recovered.
“We were having such a big (non-COVID) patient load (as 90 per cent of other hospitals were closed). Despite that, we were neither given PPE kits nor N-95 masks. Even proper gloves not available to conduct normal delivery. Excuses were given that all indent material is sent in 1200-bed (COVID) hospital,” he said in the letter.
The letter added when some doctors at the hospital tested positive for coronavirus, the management did not bother to either test remaining doctors or trace their contacts, and instead went on to criticise and warn them that they will be tested only if they have high temperature and breathlessness.
“On the day I was tested positive, I conducted three normal deliveries and one C-section, and almost came in contact with 20 patients directly and their newborns. There has been no contact tracing done for the same. No authority has inquired about it,” he wrote.
“At the age of 25 nothing much will happen to me. I turned out to be negative within five days without any treatment but it is not the same for pregnant females and neonates. They are immune-compromised i.e. if they encounter the virus, they can be in big trouble,” he said.
“If the condition remains same in the civil hospital, doctors working here will be super spreaders of COVID19,” he said, adding not even 10 per cent of 700 resident doctors working in the hospital were tested for COVID-19 despite all of them staying in a common hostel and working together.
“The management is not taking action for residents, instead they are calling us cowards and kamchor (shirkers), which is so not the case, especially when we are the ones risking the lives and doing all we can despite all the odds,” he said.
He also said patients in 60 wards of the 1,200-bed COVID hospital are not kept isolated from each other, and space between their cots is not enough, making them prone to increased viral load.
“No one from the hospital management has bothered to at least call us for our condition. It is difficult to work in non-COVID duty rather than to work in COVID duty, where you have proper PPE kits,” he said in the letter.
He also said patients are managed by junior doctors as no senior comes for rounds or emergency at the hospital.
The doctor requested the court’s direction to the authorities “to test all residents working here, otherwise Ahmedabad will never come out from COVID-19 as doctors themselves are knowingly/unknowingly the super spreaders”.
In its order made available on Saturday, the Gujarat High Court said the condition of the civil hospital was “pathetic,” and “as good as dungeon, maybe even worse”.
The HC order said if the government did not take the situation seriously, the court will be compelled to have video conference with the doctors there to ascertain difficulties and problems faced by them.