The Supreme Court, on Friday, took suo motu cognizance of ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ report on what it called “deplorable” conditions in Delhi’s LNJP hospital and issued notices to both the Delhi government and LNJP hospital to respond. The apex court said: “India TV on June 10 highlighted a report on a video where patients have been in pathetic conditions. Dead bodies in the lobby, waiting area, wards. This is the state of a government hospital."
On Wednesday night, I had shown in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ how dead bodies are lying inside wards near COVID patients gasping for breath in LNJP hospital. The medical superintendent of LNJP hospital has given surprising justifications for the horrifying visuals shown on India TV.
Dr Suresh Kumar, the medical superintendent, claimed that he was in the hospital the whole night on Wednesday and could not sleep. Like millions of other viewers, I could not also sleep on Wednesday night properly as images of unclothed dead bodies lying on the floor surfaced in my mind. I had a troubled sleep that night thinking about images of patients vomiting in the corridors.
The medical superintendent claimed that he was in LNJP hospital the whole night but did not find anything wrong. I was surprised when he said this live on India TV. I know a large number of doctors and I fully understand under what pressures most of the doctors work, but for a medical superintendent to say that people who are in a critical stage and very weak come to this hospital and they are lying unclothed because of hot weather, was really surprising.
For a medical superintendent to say that he finds nothing wrong in the videos showing near-dead patients with parts of their body dangling from beds, and dead bodies lying on adjacent beds, is, to say the least, puzzling.
A team from National Human Rights Commission visited LNJP hospital on Thursday to check the conditions of patients in the wards. Delhi government has suspended two staff including the head of nursing, in LNJP hospital, and this seems to be the only thing that the state government could do.
The question is not about what action has been taken against the staff. The question is about restoring confidence in the minds of patients and relatives about this hospital. Whatever the medical superintendent Dr Suresh Kumar has said will surely break people’s confidence. Let us first read what the MS said.
India TV anchor Sushant Sinha spoke live on India TV with LNJP medical superintendent on Thursday morning.
On bodies lying on stretchers in the open, he said these had been brought downstairs and kept outside lifts. On patients lying on beds without clothes, his explanation was a classic one. He said, because of COVID infection risk, the central AC cooling system had been switched off, and there was nothing wrong if patients took off their clothes in 40 degree Celsius weather. He gave another excuse saying that clothes of some of the patients were taken off because they had either been given CPR or their urine catheter tubes had been changed.
Clearly, these were lame excuses given by the medical superintendent to shield gross negligence on part of his doctors, nurses and attendants. Not one of the doctors or nurses was seen when the video was made.
To highlight the entire issue in contrast, we sent our reporter Pawan Nara to Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital, which has recently been converted into a COVID dedicated hospital. He visited the wards where COVID patients were being treated. Our reporter was wearing PPE kit, face mask and gloves, and he kept a distance while speaking to doctors.
In this private hospital, a COVID patient once admitted is given a clean bed with sanitized linen, and each bed has an oxygen level monitoring system. Each COVID patient is attended to by doctors and nurses meticulously and they take extra care to ensure that the patient’s condition does not deteriorate.
There lies the basic difference. I find a greater sense of sincerity of purpose among health care workers in private hospitals as compared to government-run hospitals. In LNJP hospital, the COVID patients had been left to the mercy of God, while in Gangaram hospital, there are doctors, nurses, attendants and facilities like oxygen monitors, drips, etc. to take care of patients.
On one hand, we have hospitals where patients get round-the-clock care and monitoring, and on the other hand, we have patients lying on beds, resigned to their fate, in the midst of dead bodies. On one hand, a hospital modifies its central air conditioning to ensure that patients are not inconvenienced, and on the other, we have a medical superintendent justifying why patients lie on beds without clothes in 40 deg C weather.
On one hand, we have the camera showing doctors, nurses or attendants wearing PPE kits moving around among COVID patients, and on the other, we have the camera roving around the wards for 15 minutes and not finding a single doctor or nurse.
Watching these two videos in contrast, one can easily gauge why people prefer private hospitals to government run hospitals. No lame justifications are required when you find a dead body without clothes kept beneath a patient’s bed and why there are bodies in almost every COVID ward of a hospital.
I felt sad when I saw the MS of LNJP hospital saying that he was present inside the hospital the whole night on Wednesday. Yet he did not know that there were bodies lying around in the wards and his patients were gasping for breath, unattended. He promised that he would get this matter probed and let us know by Wednesday evening, but there was no reply forthcoming. We are still waiting for his reply.
I know that COVID has no standard treatment protocol and there are no medicines to cure patients. I also agree that better treatment does not come only through better facilities, nor does it require better air conditioning.
I also agree that better treatment does not require each doctor or nurse to stand near a COVID patient for hours. But I know this much that if you want your patient to recover, the least thing that he or she requires is sympathy and courage.
If the patient is confident that those treating him or her do really care, if a patient understands that he or she would not be left to die unattended, if the doctor gives courage to the patient that he or she would recover soon, then I can very well say that I have seen people on their death beds winning their battle for life.
The only thing that a patient battling COVID requires is courage, and some sympathy in the heart of the doctor. But how can you expect a patient to muster courage when one finds surrounded with dead bodies inside a ward? That patient will surely die even before he or she embraces death.
Those viewers who watched the LNJP MS Dr Suresh Kumar speak on India TV, may have clearly surmised by now that he has not an iota of sympathy in his heart for patients.
After watching the LNJP hospital videos and the frivolous explanations given by the MS, I can say without any doubt that those working in that hospital have lost all sense of sympathy. They are merely trying to hunt for justifications to save their own skins. For them, a dead or a half-dead man can fall off the bed on to the floor. For them, a patient is unconscious because he or she must be having a sound sleep.
Each one of these justifications is nothing but an atrocity, an injustice, towards those patients who opted to get themselves treated in government hospitals. These patients went to hospitals, built with your and our money, in the hope that they would get back their lives.
I had forward the LNJP videos to people who matter in Delhi government. I had wanted that action should be taken. The action they took was: two nurses were suspended. If this is not whitewashing, what else is it?
I never wanted a doctor or a nurse or an attendant be dismissed. This not the solution. These are outdated knee-jerk reactions. Nobody nowadays is afraid of suspension or dismissal.
What all of us want is that the 700-plus COVID patients still being treated in LNJP hospital, must at least get better care. Let a plan be formulated as to how to remove the dead bodies from the wards, how doctors and nurses should attend to each patient, how to protect patients from 40 deg C heat, and lastly, how to ensure that they are not left to die, unattended. If the hospital takes action on these points, I will feel satisfied with the action taken. Whatever has happened, has happened. Now let us move on, and improve our health care system. The sooner, the better.
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