Amid mounting allegations over alleged suppression of Covid-19 positive cases and the total deaths in West Bengal, two premier government-run hospitals have seemingly thrown caution to the wind over screening of patients.
West Bengal health department sources have revealed to Easternlink that since mid-April, SSKM or P G Hospital (Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research) transferred hundreds of patients with complaints of cough, fever, body ache and sneezing to the non-Covid-19 designated Shambhunath Pandit Hospital.
That was the time when COVID-19 cases were rising across the state and the SSKM Hospital had been designated centre for Covid-19 screening, testing and treatment.
Doctors and other paramedics at Shambhunath Pandit Hospitals say they found it a “huge challenge” to cater to the flood of patients that were being sent by the SSKM authorities. While Easternlink has not been able to confirm the total number of such patients that SSKM referred to Shambhunath, it is believed to be at least a few hundred.
Matters spun out of control at Shambhunath when at least two of these patients were found to be Covid-19 positive.
While these two patients were offered treatment, agitated doctors and paramedics raised a hue and cry, complaining to their superiors that they “won’t be able to treat” patients suffering from common cold, fever, sneezing and coughing since they had no personal protection equipment (PPE).
“We are angry that the SSKM as well as the health department did not even bother for our not having no PPEs or other safety gear. Besides, Shambhunath has no RT-PCR test kits, leave alone protocols in place to handle patients who showed symptoms similar to those of Covid-infected individuals,” an insider at the hospital told Easternlink.
He said that doctors and paramedics at Shambhunath are having to make do with only rubber gloves, face masks and some face shields.
Health department sources admitted that the reason why patients were being referred from SSKM to Shambhunath is that the former has no “fever clinic” while the latter has one. Besides, SSKM neither has a designated Covid-19 isolation ward nor were tests for the deadly virus being carried out there.
When deaths caused by Covid-19 are being reported daily, doctors at the ill-equipped fever clinic at Shambhunath have “routinely send home” the patients that SSKM Hospital has been referring to. “It is a mess but what else do we do,” an exasperated Shambhunath insider asked.
Asked why SSKM has been sending away patients with suspected Covid-19 symptoms to Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, sources said that “it appears that the only objective is to show that there is no registration of even potential Covid-19 cases”.
Top doctors and medical scientists of the Bengal diaspora spread across the globe recently wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, expressing their concern over the alleged lack of COVID-19 tests in the state.
After multiple doctor and health worker associations wrote to CM Mamata Banerjee, this was a first of its kind letter where the Bengality community from across the world expressed their concerns on the prevailing situation in the state.
The scientists and health professionals also questioned the Bengal Government’s decision to segregate COVID-19 deaths from those of deaths with co-morbid conditions. The letter was mailed to the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary, Rajiv Sinha.
But the Trinamul Congress reacted sharply , saying these doctors and scientists should ‘focus on saving lives in countries they live in.’
Various political parties including the BJP has levelled accusations ranging from suppression of Coronavirus data to N95 masks and PPE suits not adequately provided for health workers.