Mumbai: Death of two women coronavirus patients from a family in Maharashtra's Jalgaon district has shone a spotlight on the nightmarish situation at government hospitals which are struggling to cope with the pandemic.
The death of one of them - an 82-year-old woman - made headlines on Wednesday as she had gone 'missing' according to the Jalgaon District Civil Hospital, and her body was found inside the toilet eight days later.
On Thursday, a case for 'causing death by negligence' was registered against concerned staff by Jalgaon city police.
The other patient, the woman's daughter-in-law, died while waiting for ICU bed in the hospital on May 31.
Speaking to PTI on Thursday, district collector Avinash Dhakane said that at least three other coronavirus patients had died at the Jalgaon District Civil Hospital after fainting while walking to the toilet unassisted.
"Even this 82-year-old lady had reported only 76 per cent oxygen level. She should have been either given bed pan or helped by the hospital staff to reach the toilet," he said.
The woman's grandson works in a private company in Pune. His father is recovering from COVID-19 at a private hospital in Nashik.
The young man's parents and his grandmother who lived in Bhusaval tested positive for virus in the last week of May. He himself could not go and meet them as his wife is nine months pregnant, he said.
The young man's mother was taken to Jalgaon Civil Hospital after she complained of breathlessness on May 31.
According to him, she had to wait in the hospital's reception area for six hours as no ICU bed was available.
"She even fainted once and had to wait for fellow patients to come to rescue as the staff did not help her. She died in the waiting room on May 31," he said.
The older woman's case was more shocking as the hospital staff did not realise that she had died in the toilet until June 10.
A senior official of the civil hospital said paramedical personnel were afraid of dealing with COVID-19 patients. "There were arguments with the medical staff as they were reluctant to serve COVID-19 patients," he said.
Collector Dhakane said there were only five toilet units on the floor. "It means nobody from the hospital went to clean the toilet for eight days. The foul smell from inside forced other patients to call the authorities," he said.
Hospital dean Dr B S Khaire was suspended late Wednesday night.
On Thursday, a case under sections 304(A) (causing death by negligence) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the IPC was registered against the concerned doctor, nurses, ward boys, sweepers and other staff.
"We will ascertain the role of doctors, nurses and other staff who were deputed in the ward 7 from June 1 to 10," said a local police official.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said action will be taken against the people responsible for the death of the 82-year-old woman.
"We've taken a serious note of this incident. Few persons have already been booked for this criminal offence," he said.
"Stern action is being taken against the people responsible for this inhuman act. Police are carrying out an inquiry to get to the root of it," the minister added.