Doctors, patients facing deadly indifference at private hospitals

Yunus Y. Lasania

Hyderabad: While the general public has been largely troubled with getting access to beds in private hospitals during the pandemic, even doctors and other healthcare staff have become victims of apathy by some managements across hospitals in Hyderabad. From being forced to work in spite of showing coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, to staff members getting infected, doctors from the city complained that they are being knowingly put to risk by their employers in different ways. 

“Our hospital has horribly mishandled the situation. One technician in my team had tested positive, and days before that he had assisted me in some work. Half the nurses and technicians in my department have also tested positive for Covid-19 at the facility,” said a doctor from the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology (AIG). He alleged that the hospital management has not done much to assuage the situation. 

The AIG doctor, who requested anonymity, added that the staff in his department may have even contracted the virus in the hostels they are staying at. However, the more important issue, he pointed out, is of infected (or those suspected to be infected) persons coming into contact with more staff members and patients. Management officials from the hospital did not respond to questions from

Other doctors working in other private hospitals also had similar or worse experiences. “Some of the doctors who showed symptoms of Covid-19, like fever or cold, were even asked to come and work till their test results were back. How can they ask us to work when we are sick? Moreover, a consultant surgeon who had tested positive few weeks ago had also been seeing patients before it,” alleged a doctor from Apollo Hospitals in the city. 

When contacted about the allegations by doctors, Apollo Hospital responded with the following statement: “Safety of patients and staff is of paramount importance at Apollo Hospitals. We have clear protocols to make sure that the highest standards of infection control. There is no question of any deviation from the safety protocols and it is clearly reflected in the quality of care provided at Apollo Hospitals. It is important to infuse confidence in the community and not create doubts with issues which are not facts.”

Apart from issues faced by doctors, patients have been also facing problems on the other side. After widespread complaints from the public against private hospitals, the state Public Health and Family Welfare department over the past week has revoked the permissions of Deccan Hospital and Virinchi Hospital, for not following the government’s fixed ceiling on Covid-19 treatment charges.  

In a statement on August 4, state  government said that that there were several complaints received against Virinchi Hospital for charging exorbitant rates, improper and surplus billing and for not adhering the ceiling guidelines. It added that several complaints were received against the hospital, following which the allegations were found to be correct after an enquiry.

Apart from high bills, families of patients have also been finding it difficult to find beds in private hospitals. On Tuesday, city-based noted TV journalist Uma Sudhir tweeted to state IT minister K. T. Rama Rao that her friend’s uncle was dropped outside Yashoda Hospital by an ambulance, but the hospital refused to look at him citing non-availability of beds. 

While the patient was later taken in the emergency ward by the hospital, he finally managed to get admitted at Sunshine Hospital in Secunderabad. “The gentleman has finally been admitted in the ICU at #SunshineHospital one hour ago; we are all living through a nightmare except it is real & frightening; extremely challenging times, so let us learn to take care of ourselves & those around us to the best of our ability,” wrote Ms. Sudheer after the issue was settled. 

Against this backdrop, it is safely claimed that ordinary citizens are facing major troubles at private hospitals while fighting Covid-19. 

(The writer is a Hyderabad-based journalist who previously worked for The New Indian Express, The Hindu and Mint.)

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