The government figures for that day put the number of those who had succumbed to Covid-19 at 48, including among the statistics Sandeep Garg (53), an employee at a car dealership. Ironically, his Covid test result came back negative, but by then his case had already been listed as a corona-suspect death.
‘Hospitals delayed oxygen treatment for paperwork’
His 24-year-old eldest daughter Kriti—Garg has two other children, daughter Manvi (20) and son Geetansh (17)—is yet to accept that her father died because the medical setup wasn’t good enough to keep him alive, with a number of private hospitals refusing to take him in and the government hospital they went to delaying oxygen treatment allegedly due to mandatory paperwork.
At 4am on June 8, the condition of Garg, who had developed breathlessness, became aggravated. “Our father had been going for work after the lockdown was relaxed. A few days later, he began coughing and then got mild fever,” said Kriti, who lost her mother in 2013. “When he developed breathing problems, our doctor asked him to get a Covid-19 test done.” In fear, they awaited the test result.
The three siblings underwent a traumatic struggle to keep their father alive, with fearful relatives keeping away and neighbours refusing to come to their aid. “I called one private hospital after another, but was refused a bed everywhere. As my father needed oxygen immediately, we decided to go to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, the closest to our home,” narrated Kriti. GTB Hospital is not only the biggest medical centre in northeast Delhi, but also a designated Covid-19 facility.
“The GTB staff was extremely rude and said my father would be admitted after due formalities and preparation of a case file,” alleged the daughter. “There was no oxygen even as my father’s breathlessness worsened. No one wanted to touch the stretcher and my brother and I moved it around. We reached the hospital at 10am but he was shifted to a ward only by 6pm.”
Dr Sunil Kumar, the hospital’s medical superintendent, refuted the allegation about the undue delay in paperwork as “absolutely wrong”. He said, “The data entry operator just asks for the patient’s name, age, mobile number and address. There are no other formalities or paperwork.” He did, however, say he couldn’t rule out impolite behaviour on the part of the staff and the complaint would be investigated.
Kriti claimed that her father received oxygen much later, and even then it was she who had to put the mask on her father and operate the machine. “For the glucose drip too, I was asked to hold his hand firmly in position as a needle was inserted and then told to adjust the drip so the flow was right,” she alleged. “There were dead patients all around, and I have no idea why the bodies weren’t being removed. When I pleaded with the doctors to check my father, they asked me how they could survive if they had to check each Covid-suspect patient.”
It was around 6 pm when Garg was given a bed in the ward. “There, I had to insert the oxygen pipe inside my father’s nose. No doctor had as yet checked my father and he had received no specific care, except oxygen and glucose,” Kriti maintained, adding that doctors, in PPE suits and sitting in their chamber, refused to come out except at the designated visiting hour. “I was told that it was a high-risk zone and I should leave. My father is hypertensive and diabetic and needs some food at regular intervals. My sister brought some food for him, after which we left.”
Kriti alleged that was the last meal her father had. “I managed to arrange a bed in a private hospital and was asked to admit him there the following day. However, at around 9 am I got a call from GTB asking me to come immediately,” she said. By the time she reached the hospital, her father’s body had been sealed and moved to the mortuary. His Covid-19 test had come negative, but the hospital death summary had entered his case as a pneumonitis Covid suspect.
When told of the Garg family’s trauma, Dr Kumar insisted that GTB Hospital was committed to the patients’ well-being. He, however, said, “All allegations and complaints will be fully investigated to uncover the truth.” The medical superintendent added if any dereliction of duty was ascertained, appropriate measures would be taken. Even if the complaint was found unfounded, he assured that the complainant would be called and informed about the findings.