Kochi: The Ernakulam government medical college which attained laurels for successfully treating coronavirus infected foreigners including the seven member UK tourists’ team, all of whom were high-risk category patients, is now in the eye of a storm.
The hospital is facing serious allegations over the recent death of a COVID-19 patient at ICU. Triggering a controversy, a nursing officer at the hospital in an audio clip said that a COVID-19 patient died due to negligence when he was about to be shifted from the ICU to the ward. The nursing officer alleged that the patient who was on the ventilator had died as the oxygen tubes were not properly connected. She also said in the voice clip that few other coronavirus patients had also died in the hospital due to negligence.
The controversy has tarnished the image of the medical college which was converted to an exclusive COVID-19 care centre in April. During the initial phase of the pandemic, the hospital was in the news for the “high-standard treatment and facilities” given to COVID-19 patients. Brian Neil, the British patient of the tourists’ team expressed satisfaction over the treatment and termed it as ‘first-class’ when he was discharged from the hospital.
The Kalamassery police have registered a case based on the complaint submitted by relatives of C. K Harris, a native of Fort Kochi, who died in the hospital allegedly due to negligence. The police have instructed the medical college authorities to produce all documents related to the deceased patient’s treatment, reports regional media. The health department has also ordered a probe into the incident and suspended the nursing officer from the service.
Though the hospital authorities refuted the allegations, Dr. Najma Salim a junior resident doctor at the hospital told TV channels that the ventilator tube was not properly connected for the patient. “Similar incidents of negligence happened earlier. What the nursing officer said in the vice clip is true. I have seen two other patients on ventilator support in distress as the nursing staff on duty didn’t check whether the ventilator system was working properly. Though the incident was reported to senior doctors they asked not to take it seriously” Dr. Najma told regional TV channels.
However, refuting the allegations, Dr. A Fathahudheen, nodal officer of COVID-19 care at the hospital said in a press conference that Harris died of sudden cardiac arrest. According to a media release from the hospital the patient also had other comorbidities like diabetes, obesity and hypertension and he was also in serious condition caused by acute COVID-19 pneumonia.
“Dr. Najma was not on duty that day and the doctors who were attending the patient didn’t report any such incident to senior authorities. He was not on a mechanical ventilator but on NIV ventilator and its tubes will not get disconnected. The patient was on 100 percent oxygen support and the nursing officer’s statement that he was about to be shifted to the ward is against facts, said Dr. Peter P Vazhayil, medical superintendent in the media release.
Meanwhile, relatives of the two patients who died during the alleged negligence mentioned by Dr. Najma, have decided to lodge police complaints.
While supporting a comprehensive probe into the incident, the Kerala Government Medical College Teachers Association (KGMCTA) has observed that generalising the incident will diminish the morale of healthcare workers at the medical college who have been relentlessly fighting against the pandemic for the last nine months.
Responding to the controversy, health minister K.K Shailaja said that a detailed probe has been ordered but there are attempts to tarnish the image of the hospital.