NAGPUR, Maharashtra: Nine doctors in Nagpur’s largest hospital, the Government Medical College, were put under quarantine after a patient admitted with cerebrovascular complications had concealed the fact that his brother, with whom he was in touch, was being treated for COVID-19. The patient himself later screened positively for coronavirus.
Nagpur GMC, founded in 1947, is one of two nodal hospitals in Nagpur to treat COVID-19 patients, and functions as a regional centre for the entire Maharashtra Vidarbha region.
The 44-year-old patient was admitted to GMC on Friday after a private hospital in the city turned him away. A resident doctor at GMC told HuffPost India on condition of anonymity that at the time of admission, the patient and his family were asked regularly if he had come into touch with any COVID-19 patients, as is now common practice in government hospitals. They denied this, however.
“Doctors blamed him on Saturday when he showed signs of cough, cold and fever because patients with cerebrovascular disease normally have no such symptoms. When the doctors pressed on, he revealed that after being positively diagnosed with coronavirus, his cousin had been admitted to Indira Gandhi Medical College in Nagpur. At first, everybody in the ward wanted to thrash him but the doctors in the ward immediately moved him to the ward of isolation and sent his samples for examination, “the doctor said.
By this time, more than 30 GMC staff had come into contact with the patient, including physicians, nurses and other workers. The study tests on Sunday showed he had tested positive for the highly contagious disease.
The patient’s wife and son both tested Coronavirus positively and were admitted to GMC.
The richest state in India, Maharashtra, has now recorded 230 cases of coronavirus, the highest in the world. Nagpur has 16 instances all alone.
Although GMC has more than 1,000 doctors, there are fears that an increase in the number of cases – as faced by other countries that are ahead of India in terms of the trajectory of the disease – could soon overwhelm its staff, particularly if more people need to be quarantined. The hospital admitted 70 patients suspected of COVID-19 only on Monday itself.
More than 780,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the virus, which has infected over 37,000 people. Scientists have said the virus follows an exponential growth trend, meaning it infects more and more people increasingly with every passing day.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals employed by India’s overburdened public healthcare system have been operating against the wall with their hands as they attempt to combat the pandemic. Besides the lack of medical supplies such as masks and gloves, they also deal with community stigma and family, as well as concerns for their own health.
When patients conceal their past due to fear or ignorance, these difficulties increase manifold.
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Additionally, all the doctors were quarantined in a hostel for GMC graduates, where they do not have separate bathrooms — as is recommended for people under quarantine.
“It raises the risk because they could end up infecting those who will be using the hostel’s combined toilets and bathrooms,” another resident doctor said.
Dr Sajal Mitra, GMC Dean, and Dr Namita Korwate, Deputy Superintendent, did not respond to calls from HuffPost India.
This is not yet clear if the other medical staff who came into contact with the patient have been put under quarantine.
A doctor who works at GMC said the hospital had requested the nurses and some other medical staff to conduct quarantine at home. But this is far from adequate, he said.
“What about those in the private hospital (where the patient went first) and drivers and health staff in the ambulance where he was taken to the GMC? This one man’s carelessness has exposed the whole department of medicine and a whole ward to coronavirus. Now, to make up for quarantined workers, doctors from other units would have to be taken out, “he rued.