For family of 20, woes outlast walls
An entire family of 20 and the two help at their home on the northern fringes of Calcutta had to be relocated to a hospital and a government quarantine facility after an elderly member tested positive for Covid-19 in end-March.
The elderly member was admitted to a nursing home and later shifted to Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals. Three family members were taken to MR Bangur and the rest sent to a quarantine unit in New Town.
The family has alleged that within hours of the first member testing positive for Covid-19, his name and details were leaked and widely circulated on social media.
Back home, the family is allegedly being ostracised by neighbours. The family shared its not-so-happy experiences with Metro
MR Bangur Hospital
Three of the family members, two men and a woman, were admitted to MR Bangur Hospital, the largest among the designated Covid-19 hospitals with 1,100 beds, with fever. Their swab samples were collected but the report came around five days later.
“There were three male wards, each with 12 to 14 patients. But there were only three cubicles and two showers for 40-odd patients,” said a youth who was admitted to the hospital with his parents.
“Two elderly patients with fever died in our ward. But no nurse or doctor visited the wards. We spotted a couple of Group D employees and requested them to take the bodies away but they did not respond. The beds where the bodies lay were wrapped with tapes,” the youth said.
The young man alleged that the bodies, on both occasions, were removed after at least 12 hours. “We were shocked and horrified. It was more horrifying because we ourselves had fever and were not sure whether it was the coronavirus,” he said.
“But what made us more angry was the neglect by doctors and nurses. No one would come to check our temperature or examine us. All three of us had fever. After repeated requests, someone would come and speak briefly,” he said.
The youth’s mother alleged that an elderly woman admitted to the female ward slipped and fell while trying to go to the washroom alone. “There was no hospital staff there to help her get up. Finally, other patients had to help her,” she recounted.
The mother and son tested negative and were sent to the New Town quarantine centre to join other members of the family. But the father tested positive and was shifted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Beleghata, where the facilities were much better.
Officialspeak: “It is a baseless allegation that bodies were not removed for hours. There is a statutory four-hour wait before a doctor can officially declare someone dead. So the bodies are kept for that period,” a senior health official said. “Our doctors and nurses are taking full care of the patients. We are supervising their work closely.”
Sixteen members of the family were taken to the government-run quarantine centre in New Town. They were kept in apartments on two floors of the multi-storeyed building.
“The place was clean but the pipes in the washrooms were leaking,” said a young member of the family. “Whenever we called a helpline number provided to us, a plumber came and repaired the leak but the problem kept recurring.”
Ten members of the family occupied three bedrooms and a hall on one floor. The beds were placed at a distance from each other, the family member said.
Doctors visited them regularly to enquire about symptoms of Covid-19 such as fever or cough. But it took a long time for the test results to come, the youth said.
“We were taken to MR Bangur for the swab collection on the second day of quarantine. There the doctors said it would take two days for the results to come. But the reports came after more than a week,” he said. “We were all tense and impatient. We kept calling officials to find out why it was taking so much time but there was no proper explanation.”
The test reports were negative and the family members were taken back to their home in government vehicles.
Officialspeak: Asked about the leaking pipes, a senior health department official said: “It is a new building and the leak in pipes was a teething trouble. We have fixed those issues.”
About the delay in test reports, he said: “It usually takes two days for the report to come. But there can be two reasons for the delay. One, there are priority cases like someone who is critical. People in quarantine facilities with no symptoms are not critical. Second, because of faulty kits, some reports were inconclusive.”
The youth who was at the quarantine centre alleged that his uncle’s details were leaked from the nursing home after the latter tested positive for Covid-19.
“His name, age, address and the report from National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases were all over social media. People started calling us. It was obvious that someone from the nursing home had leaked the details,” the youth said.
The family, now in home isolation, has allegedly been facing the hostility of neighbours after returning from hospital and quarantine centre.
“People are not allowing vegetable vendors to stop in front of our house. Policemen have been posted in front of our house. Even a cop on duty told one of us it was because of us that the residents were suffering.”
The local councillor has allegedly been spreading rumours about the family. “There were people from other houses recording videos of us leaving for the quarantine centre, identifying us as coronavirus patients,” the young man said.
Officialspeak: The CEO of the private nursing home said: “A patient’s confidentiality is our top priority and we never compromise on that. The leak did not happen at our end.”
“Aare jotoi boluk, dhora to porechhe (Whatever they say, they have been caught),” said the councillor, who had recently travelled to Maharashtra and allegedly behaved irresponsibly on his return.
Asked what he meant by “they have been caught”, he said: “I mean Covid positive. I have not spread any rumours. Some people in the locality were saying that some of their family members were frequently visiting Maharashtra and that’s what I had initially said. But what can I do? We all depend on information provided by people. I always help people of my ward.”