Kerala: Nursing officer admits coronavirus patient died of negligence, suspended
Kerala, once hailed for handling the coronavirus pandemic well, has been jolted after two alleged lapses on the part of the healthcare workers came to the fore. In one case, a nursing officer was heard telling her colleagues that their laxity led to the death of one coronavirus patient. The other case concerns a bereaved family, that wasn't informed about their kin's demise.
The audio clip incident put Jalaja Devi, a nursing officer at Government Medical College Hospital in Kalamassery, in the dock. She sent a voice message to her colleagues on Saturday, ahead of the Central team's visit. Devi reminded them that a patient, TK Haris, died due to a poorly fitted ventilator tube. The patient passed away in July, reports claimed.
In the clip, Devi said, "Doctors have reported that due to our negligence, many patients have lost their lives. Unluckily, if we are caught, that would become a major issue." About Haris, she said he was fit enough to be taken out of ventilator support. His family also raised questions after his demise, she underlined, adding that doctors protected them by not "revealing information."
"Today, some doctors reported that oxygen masks were not found properly fitted on many patients. Masks were found displaced, not fitted to the face. Ventilator tubes should be seen whether properly inserted into nostrils," she said in the clip, which was circulated on social media.
Stunned by the clip's revelations, Haris's family urged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to look into the matter and take action against those, whose medical negligence cost their loved one's life. Vijayan termed the matter "serious," saying it "would dent the image of the state's health sector." Health Minister KK Shailaja suspended Devi and ordered the Medical Education Director to investigate and submit a report.
Haris's elder sister Zainaba told media that "no one should go through this." "Our 85-year-old mother is distraught. His wife is a mental wreck. He has two children," Zainaba said, adding that they want to know how someone who was recovering well, passed away suddenly.
Subsequently, the medical college called the content of the audio clip "baseless, untrue and irresponsible." The authorities said Haris was admitted on June 26 and hadn't recovered till his death. He had acute diabetes, high BP; was overweight, and suffered from coronavirus pneumonia, claimed the hospital. According to the hospital, he was on NIV ventilator support and not on the mechanical ventilator support.
The opposition, however, wasn't pleased that the nursing officer was suspended hastily. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala tweeted that it was shocking that the officer was punished for "revealing the truth." "The nurse stated that the death happened because the ventilator tubes were out of place. This is clearly medical negligence, and the relatives of the deceased are fighting for justice," he said.
In another incident, a family hailing from Kollam wasn't informed about the death of their kin for three long days. 82-year-old Sulaiman Kunju tested positive last month, and much to the family's surprise he was shifted to a medical facility in Thiruvananthapuram, not Kollam. On October 16, they were told he would be discharged. However, when son Noushad visited the hospital, he was horrified.
Noushad learned that another person, sharing his father's name, was to be discharged. A hunt was launched to look for Kunju and it led the family to Thiruvananthapuram hospital's morgue. His body was tagged as "unidentified" after his demise on October 13. Kollam District Medical Officer VV Sherly claimed the family knew he was being treated at Thiruvananthapuram, but they denied the charge.
"I had delivered food for him in Kollam. Staff collected the food but I never knew that my father was not being treated there. They always informed me that my father was getting better," Noushad told IE.