Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh Credit: File image

Tinsukia: The son of a COVID-19 victim from Assam’s Tinsukia district has alleged that his mother was “murdered” as she was deprived of water, forget tea and food, by attendants of Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH) in Dibrugarh, highlighting poor arrangements.

The octogenarian woman died on Saturday evening while she was being brought back home for isolation. The patient, who was admitted at AMCH on Thursday after her oxygen levels dropped, had tested positive for the infection a day later and shifted to the COVID ward.

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In a WhatsApp group, Mahesh Goenka posted on Saturday night: “My mother murdered.”

Screenshot of the group

An hour later, he added, “She was asking water since last but no water (forget tea and water) was given to her by AMC attendant. Ultimately succumbed today at 6.30 pm.”

Screenshot of the group

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If it’s true, it’s a great concern for all, a member responded. Another said, ”Very shocking for us.” “The issue should be raised to draw attention from the authority.” “The arrangements to look after old age persons were missing,” Vivek Goenka, the victim’s grandson, said and alleged that she was not provided water, tea, and food.

Narrating his ordeal, Goenka said that on Thursday, Rapid Antigen Test was performed on her. She tested negative and was admitted in suspected ward pending swab test collection. “We were told that an attendant of the patient has to accompany the patient to track her health and inform the ward boy if oxygen level falls. As such, I couldn’t sleep the entire night,” Goenka said.

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The next day, her swab sample was collected around 12.30 pm and I was informed that the report will be available in 48-hours, he said. “However, around 10.00 pm I was informed that she has been tested positive for Covid-19 and by midnight shifted to the COVID ward,” Goenka said, adding, “When I handed diaper, nighty, and jaws (as she doesn’t have teeth) to the personnel outside the ward, a separate building, I was told that they have diapers and dress and will contact him for jaws when needed.”

Goenka said that his grandmother called around 2.30 am for water. “She complained that no one was paying heed to her call for help. I was helpless as no one was allowed to enter the COVID ward,” he said.

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In the morning, she again called over the phone to ask someone to provide water, tea, and biscuits. She had to take diabetic medicine which unfortunately she couldn’t, added Goenka.

He said, “As I had accompanied her, a Rapid Antigen Test was performed on me, and by noon my results were declared negative after which I was allowed to go.”

She did not get anything to drink and eat, he said. “As such, I decided to apply for home isolation. When doctors asked me the reason, I told them she is aged and needs help to eat and other things, to which they politely responded that it will be taken care of, but no help was offered. Not even water was provided. Hence, I made my mind to take her back home and received approval by 3.30 pm,” he added.

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Goenka said that he arranged an ambulance and waited for 45 minutes before his grandmother was brought down. “I was shocked to see that my grandma was brought down without any oxygen support, though she was on oxygen support while in the hospital. Her dress got wet since her diaper leaked due to motion. No one bothered to change it,” he said.

Goenka added, “I got her shifted in the ambulance immediately after finding her breathing with difficulty and got oxygen support. A few minutes later she died on the way home.”

“Doctors were good. Perhaps, nursing was not there,” Goenka lamented.

Refuting the allegations as untrue, superintendent of AMCH Indra Nath Sutia said that the patient was discharged against medical advice. “Four bottles of water are supplied to every patient. ICU DOD has fed her yesterday. The patient was having altered sensorium and she was getting intra venous fluid,” he said.

“Allegations are part and parcel of our life but the majority are not true,” he added.

Application of home isolation
Application of home isolation

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AMC, one of the oldest medical colleges in the state, has a facility of 200 beds for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms and 50 ICU beds for Covid-19 cases, besides a separate ward for Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) and isolation ward.

Since this is a disaster no one was prepared for it. Sutia added, “The shortage was there even before COVID-19. Today, we are running 6 additional blocks – including COVID block, SARI ward – with the same manpower.”

He said that after every seven days of Covid-19 duty, they are sent for seven days’ quarantine.

“As per protocol, we should ideally have one sister with each Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed. However, presently, we have only two sisters and two ward boys with each ward including ICU,” said Sutia, adding, “Our doctors are doing their best up to their capabilities and we are providing proper food and even fruits to the patients.”

Appealing the patients and their families to cooperate with the doctors, Sutia said, “It is a war and we have to fight it collectively.”

“Such an elderly patient should not have been allowed home isolation and discharged,” wishing anonymity, an official told this correspondent.

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