Civil Hospital in Assam's Tinsukia district Credit: EastMojo image

Tinsukia: A 74-year-old male COVID-19 patient allegedly died by suicide inside the COVID ward of the civil hospital in Assam’s Tinsukia town.

Confirming the incident additional deputy commissioner (health) Ayush Garg said that the incident was reported around 7 am on Saturday. “An inquest has been conducted by a magistrate. Now, that the post-mortem has been completed, we shall be informing the family about the unfortunate incident and conduct his last rituals as per the deceased’s religion,” he said.

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“Conflicting reports are pouring in. Since the case is under police investigation, it will not be appropriate for me to comment on it,” added Garg. When asked, Garg said, he is yet to receive a report from the superintendent of civil hospital or joint director in this regard.

According to sources, the patient is a residence of Balugoda locality in Tinsukia town. “The patient’s name figured on serial number 99 of the positive cases list issued by the district administration on August 7,” the sources added.

COVID ward area at Civil hospital

“The patient was initially taken to COVID care centre at JNV, Rongajan in Kakopathar. Later, he was shifted to a civil hospital in Tinsukia on August 9,” the source said and added, “His death was recorded at 4 am today [Saturday].”

“What made a 74-year-old man end his life inside an isolation ward of a government hospital, six days after he was admitted, has left behind several important questions which need to be answered,” sources said. However, attempts to speak to in charge of the joint director (health) and superintendent of civil hospital to confirm the details turned futile.

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Talking to this correspondent, superintendent of Tinsukia police Shiladitya Chetia said, prima facie it seems to be a suspected case of suicide. “Police have begun its investigation and are examining the CCTV footage.” Responding to a question, Chetia said since it is a COVID-19 isolation ward, the police have not been able to speak to the inmates of the ward to find out what exactly happened and whether he was in distress.

The development came at a time when by Tinsukia Municipal Board (TMB) issued a “diktat” directing all shopkeepers and business establishment to undergo rapid antigen tests and collect a certificate from the civic body office within August 13 to open their establishments, sparking angry reactions within the trade community. The order dated August 10 was signed by the executive officer of TMB and the later deadline was modified to August 21 under pressure from various business quarters.

Order by Tinsukia Municipal Board
Modified order by Tinsukia Municipal Board

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Earlier, reacting to the compulsory testing order on traders, Bajrang Agarwal said, “The whole district machinery is in chaos and doing at its whimsical way without any clear cut guidelines.” “The people are very reluctant to go for testing because of the subsequent treatment and handling of the patients at the COVID hospitals and care centres. There are fear and apprehension of painful isolation according to inputs coming from various sources and COVID-19 patients who are lodged at such hospitals and COVID centres,” Agarwal, a businessman, added.

Another trader, wishing anonymity said, why compulsory testing only for shop owners and employees? Is there any study which has proved that traders are coronavirus carriers? “The order has created unnecessary panic in the minds of elderly persons, in particular.” If this is the condition to open shops, I will prefer to close my shop, over undergoing rapid antigen test,” another fuming trader said.

He added, to say the government has allowed home isolation, but the laid down criteria are not easy for everyone to fulfill. “The need of a doctor for online consultation has become so costly that everyone cannot afford besides purchasing oximeter and others, hence, several persons are avoiding testing.”

Recently, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had issued a list of doctors with a package of Rs 5,000 to help COVID-19 patient seeking home isolation. The package included Rs 500 (2 consultations) per day for 10 days even if the patient is asymptomatic.

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