Healthcare

Law student’s death exposes bizarre COVID protocol consuming patients for want of multi-specialty care

Srinagar: Abrar Reyaz Sofi, a 24-year-old law student from Shopian, suffering from brain trauma caused by an accident, which needed neurosurgical intervention, was shifted to the Chest Disease hospital from SMHS multi-speciality hospital, where he died on June 30.

Abrar had suffered a brain injury in a road accident on June 27, and needed multi-speciality care.

But after he was tested COVID-19 positive, he was sent to the Chest Disease Hospital from SMHS on 29 June.

He died on June 30 at CD hospital, as no on-call neurosurgeon from SMHS visited him from the evening of 29 June, till the time he passed away at around 2:00 pm on 30 June.

The promising law student, who had started to show some improvement while being treated at SMHS, was hurriedly shifted to CD, a hospital that doesn’t have an in-house neurosurgery department.

His friends and family say they requested doctors at SMHS to shift Abrar to SKIMS Soura instead, which is a COVID hospital and has better trauma-care.

However, the authorities at SMHS claimed that SKIMS didn’t have a ventilator available.

This is not a one-off case.

A letter written on May 19 by the Head of Pulmonary Medicine at CD hospital, Dr Naveed Nazir, to Principal GMC Srinagar, Dr Samia Rashid, had flagged the issue and requested the latter to stop sending such critical patients to CD Hospital, where they would mostly likely die for lack of care.

COVID positive patients are shifted from different departments of GMC admitted at SMHS and associated hospitals to CD hospital irrespective of them having any respiratory problem or not, in view of it being designated as a COVID hospital,” reads the letter.

It then lists seven such cases of which three had died.

Till now patients shifted include:

1. CVA – (Thrombotic stroke) shifted of department of medicine (expired).
2. Acute Subdural Hematoma, shifted from department of neurosurgery (expired).
3. Thyroid Carcinoma (stage 4) with Tracheostomy shifted from department of ENT (expired)
4. Post-operative case of perforated appendix shifted from department of surgery.
5. Case of encephalitis with post-partum psychosis, shifted from department of medicine.
6. Case of progressive cognitive decline shifted from department of medicine.
7. Gluteal abscess shifted from department of plastic surgery.

All these patients shifted here were not having any respiratory problem due to COVID-19 illness,” the letter reads.

It suggested that GMC Srinagar create a separate isolation facility for such patients who needed multi-speciality or super-speciality care: “It is requested that either a separate isolation facility may be created in SMHS hospital for the patients requiring multi-specialty care or concerned faculty/specialists be deputed to CD hospital for efficient care of such patients, otherwise the patients’ basic disease is liable to get neglected.

Abrar’s case is testimony that GMC Srinagar ignored the letter and kept on sending patients requiring specialised care.

GMC Srinagar has, in-fact been following protocol, that since it is not designated as a COVID19 facility, it cannot treat patients who contract the virus, no matter how critical their underlying disease or injuries are.

However, there is a dire need of the protocol to be revisited, and reconsidered.

Sources at CD hospital told Free Press Kashmir that after the letter, at least 11 more patients were shifted to CD hospital from SMHS of which 10 died. However, the same was not officially confirmed.

Free Press Kashmir independently confirmed at least four cases who lost their lives to this bizarre procedure being followed.

The deceased patient at serial 2 in the May 19 letter, like Abrar, was a case of Acute Subdural Hematoma.

The chain of events in Abrar’s case show how top officials in the J&K Health and Medical Education department knew about the protocol being flagged, but did not act.

A May 21 Greater Kashmir report quoted Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education, Atal Dulloo, saying “shifting of the critically ill patients who have tested positive for COVID19 needs a review.”

Dulloo then added that shifting of critical patients also made the death “look like COVID19 deaths.”

“I have spoken to Principal GMC Srinagar and she will have a look at it. A new protocol would need to be devised for critically ill patients. We are at it,” he had said.

A month and a half later, when Abrar died, Dulloo repeated himself talking to the same reporter of the same newspaper he had spoken to in May.

“Dullo acknowledged that trauma cases and those with other critical conditions need not be shifted to CD hospital. He said that there was a need to re-visit the SOP for COVID19 management,” read the report published on July 1.

“We need to have a separate ICU in SMHS as well as SKIMS for COVID19 patients,” he was quoted saying in it.

Principal GMC Srinagar denied Free Press Kashmir’s journalistic request for a comment on the letter.

 

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