After death of diabetic, patients at Delhi's Sultanpuri coronavirus quarantine centre lament lack of medicine, timely meals
On Wednesday, a 60-year-old diabetic patient, named Mohammed Mustafa, died at a coronavirus quarantine facility in New Delhi
On Wednesday, a 60-year-old diabetic patient, named Mohammed Mustafa, died at a coronavirus quarantine facility in New Delhi. The quarantine centre in Sultanpuri was set up by the Delhi government in the wake of the pandemic and currently houses over 500 people. The people at the quarantine centre claim that the death occurred due to negligence. According to Mohammed Ibrahim, a local of Mangolpuri who is quarantined in the same facility, the patient was denied medicine and not given timely meals despite several requests to the doctors and the staff.
Mustafa belonged to Coimbatore and had been shifted to this quarantine centre from the Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital four days before his death, and notably, before his final test results for coronavirus had come in.
Mustafa had, like many others, come to New Delhi to attend the Tablighi Jamaat conference scheduled on 19 March and was to leave for home on 24 March. But because a "total lockdown" had been announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on short notice, Mustafa, along with several others from different parts of the world, was stuck in Delhi. Earlier this month, several of those who attended the conference in Nizamuddin had carried the virus and tested positive. The total number soon crossed 600 and more than 10 deaths of people with links to the events held in Nizamuddin, were recorded.
Those who had attended the several Tablighi Jamaat events in Nizamuddin were taken for testing and many were quarantined. Mustafa was taken to Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital on 31 March, where he initially tested positive. He was kept in the hospital till 18 April and was then moved to the quarantine facility in Sultanpuri. Razia Begum, his wife, is in a state of shock. She recalls the conversation she had with him on the evening of Tuesday, a day before he died. "He had been constantly telling me that he wasn't feeling okay, that his diabetes was getting worse. He complained to me that he wasn't getting enough medicine or timely food. For a diabetic, timely food is very important. And it is because of the non-availability of medicines and untimely meals that he has died," she sighs. She is now alone and has to financially take care of the house as well as two teenage sons.
Ibrahim recalls the hours before Mustafa died. "He had diabetes and his condition had worsened. We kept calling from around 5.30 am to come and see him. We kept asking the staff to call an ambulance. We even protested. But no ambulance came to help him. The ambulance came to take him only once he was dead," he says. According to Ibrahim, the inmates of the facility had appealed to the doctors stationed in a room in the facility every 30 minutes to come and see the patient.
"But they kept delaying it. It was already 10 am and nobody came. I went to the doctors and finally and asked them if they were waiting for the patient to die. One of the doctors came and gave him a pill and said he would be fine. But an hour later, he was dead," adds Ibrahim.
Aseem Taneja, a doctor from Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital, one of the doctors overseeing the Sultanpuri quarantine facility says, "The patient who has died was ill from earlier. He was suffering not just from diabetes, but also hypertension. He was not in a good condition and he suddenly collapsed. And we couldn't revive him. Since it is an isolation centre, we don't have access to many medical facilities such as ventilators there. But this is not negligence on our part. My wife is a doctor. If I was to collapse suddenly in front of her, will it be due to her negligence? The patient was already sick, and his coronavirus report was also awaited."
Responding to allegations of not giving the patient the required attention at a critical time, he notes, "Actually, we have a lot of restrictions for working at an isolation centre because one doctor has to go to all the flats, and manually look at all patients without monitors and medical facilities. It takes time. They are also right when they say that because working here is very different from working at a normal hospital. But we didn't take much time, we immediately went there. The problem was that we couldn’t revive him due to a lack of medical facilities." Whether the cause of death is the coronavirus or diabetes, he says, will be assessed only once the autopsy is done. "The patient was indeed diabetic and had hypertension — these are definitely add-on factors."
Breakfast is served at 11.30 am, lunch at 3 pm and dinner at 11 pm, according to Ibrahim. "The quality of food is secondary. What's more important is the timing of it. It is difficult for diabetic people to survive on only three meals a day. And because most people in this quarantine are of the age group above 50, most of them have diabetes or blood pressure issues, and they are not getting medicines for their ailments," he says. According to people inside the quarantine facility, outside help and resources are not being allowed to enter the facility. "Some NGO had come with supplies to help us here, but they (police) didn't allow them to enter. They had brought medicine, fruits and water bottles. The police threw away the food and chased away the volunteers very rudely," Ibrahim recalls.
"I am very afraid since the death of Mustafa yesterday. I myself don't feel very well. How will a diabetic like me survive? We have to eat every two hours — that's what the doctors have always told us. If we are not allowed to go out to even buy a packet of biscuits, the facility should provide it and take care of our medical needs. Negligence by the staff will only result in more casualties," Adnan, a person inside this quarantine facility in Sultanpuri.
Sandeep Mishra, deputy commissioner/district magistrate of Northwest Delhi, however, denies the allegations, "One death did occur in the facility, but not because of negligence. Five doctors were on duty at the time of the incident and the patient was attended to. The deceased was a COVID-19 patient who succumbed before he could be shifted to the hospital. Doctors are deployed in the facility 24/7. Food is being served regularly four times a day to all inmates."
However, Ibrahim claims the doctors don't visit them every day and even when they do, insufficient medicine is given to the people who need it. "I am worried more people will die due to lack of medicine here, rather than the coronavirus," he says. He also expresses concern for people who suffer from hypertension, asthma, blood pressure and other heart diseases.
Raziya Begum, Mustafa's widow conveyed her consent (see below) through the district collector, Coimbatore for the burial to be carried out by local authorities as per the Public Health Protocol. This is being arranged by the LNJP Hospital where the body of the deceased is kept, Mishra says.
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