A critical Covid-19 patient being brought to the Covid-19 ward at Rajindra Hospital, a tertiary healthcare institute in Punjab | Photo: Pravin Jain
A critical Covid-19 patient being brought to the Covid-19 ward at Rajindra Hospital, a tertiary healthcare institute in Punjab | Photo: Pravin Jain
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Patiala: Nearly one in every four Covid-19 patients admitted for treatment at the government-run Rajindra Hospital in Patiala, a tertiary health care institution, has succumbed to the virus.

The hospital recorded 1,894 positive cases, out of a total of 2,858 admissions, between the third week of March and 15 September. It has also recorded 453 deaths in that period, which is 24 per cent of all positive cases.

The numbers continue to look bleak for the hospital. The Patiala hospital has 225 active cases, of whom 157 are on various forms of oxygen. They include four on invasive ventilators, 15 on non-invasive ventilators, 11 on high flow nasal cannula and about 66 are on rebreathable masks — all of whom are critical patients.

“We are providing oxygen through cylinders but they feed into a piped system and not directly through individual cylinders,” said a senior hospital administrator.

The numbers are high in the two other tertiary hospitals in Punjab but the Rajindra Hospital has the worst record.

Among the other two, the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital in Faridkot has recorded 1,458 cases and 135 deaths while the Government Medical College and Hospital in Amritsar has registered 2,371 cases and 287 deaths so far, according to data accessed by ThePrint.

Punjab recorded the country’s worst Covid-19 fatality rate last week, at 2.96 per cent.

Also read: Unhealthy lifestyle, return of NRIs behind high Covid fatality, Punjab health minister says

Hospital blames delay in admissions, referral cases for death toll 

Hospital authorities, however, hold the delay in hospitalisation of patients responsible for the increasing number of deaths. As the only tertiary hospital in Punjab’s Malwa region, the institution also caters to multiple districts in the state.

Patiala Development Authority’s chief administrator, Surbhi Malik, who is in-charge of the Covid-19 ward at Rajindra Hospital, said, “We get critical cases where the infection has spread so much, that it becomes difficult to save them even though that is always a priority.”

She explained that approximately 45 per cent of the deaths have taken place in the first 24 hours of admission, and another 58-59 per cent of the deaths within the first 48 hours of admission of patients. She added that eight patients were brought dead to the hospital.

“We also get referral cases from hospitals in multiple other districts,” said Malik adding that it was surprising why private hospitals with Level-3 facilities ended up referring their cases to Rajindra.

“If they boast about their infrastructure then why are some of their critical patients referred to us? As a government institute, we don’t refuse any admission,” the IAS officer told ThePrint.

Furthermore, principal of Government Medical College, Patiala, Dr Harjinder Singh said comorbidities, especially kidney patients requiring dialysis, were admitted in large numbers at Rajindra Hospital, which further adds to the Covid-19 death count here.

Around 61 patients in the months of July, August and September at Rajindra Hospital required dialysis and tested positive for Covid-19 as well. Another 220 patients of the 453 who died had a history of hypertension and many of these had diabetes mellitus, medical staff told ThePrint.

“Patiala so far has reported only 252 deaths (and 9.176 cases), so this proves that we are getting several cases from outside our own district,” Surbhi Malik said.

She added that as compared to the other tertiary centres in Faridkot and Amritsar, Patiala hospital gets cases from nine to 10 districts including Patiala, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Barnala, Mohali, Fatehgarh Sahib, SBS Nagar and some even from Ropar, Chandigarh as well as Haryana’s Kaithal and Kurukshetra.

Dr. Surbhi Malik, the IAS officer in charge of Covid-19 section at the Rajindra Hospital in Patiala | Photo: Pravin Jain | ThePrint
Dr. Surbhi Malik, the IAS officer in charge of Covid-19 section at the Rajindra Hospital in Patiala | Photo: Pravin Jain | ThePrint

A member of the Patiala health department, on condition of anonymity, told ThePrint that other private hospitals in Patiala were catering to a large number of cases but the death rate was still under control unlike Rajindra Hospital.

“This is despite the fact that Patiala has been seeing at least six deaths per day in the month of September so far as opposed to say four deaths daily earlier,” said the official.

He further added that nearly 50 per cent of the deaths in the district, which is among the five districts in Punjab to have maximum deaths, fall in the 50-70 years age group.

A report by the civil surgeon, Patiala, submitted to the Punjab government, has concluded that “many health staff have got themselves infected with Covid-19, hence staff crunch and their replacement is a major issue” in the hospital.

Patients complain about facility

While several patients also rue the lack of adequate facilities at the government-run Rajindra Hospital, a visit by ThePrint team, however, revealed that the Covid-19 ward as well as the building for isolation wards were being sanitised every hour.

Sweepers and sanitation workers were equipped with proper protection gear, and a separate enclosure outside the hospital was also provided for the Class IV employees who are exposed to the virus daily given their duty.

Sanitation workers at the Covid-19 ward in the hospital | Photo: Pravin Jain | ThePrint
Sanitation workers at the Covid-19 ward in the hospital | Photo: Pravin Jain | ThePrint

Ramandeep Kaur, 33, a resident of Barnala, whose relative is admitted at Rajindra, told ThePrint; “My relative is constantly complaining each time we talk over the phone. He said the food quality wasn’t fresh, and sometimes the quantity also didn’t suffice.”

To this, Surbhi Malik said the food was hygienically prepared at the Patiala Club daily and besides meals, tea and snacks are being provided every day. “There are attendants who even bring home-cooked food and provide the same to the medical team at the entrance, who in turn pass it on to the patient,” added Malik saying that the hospital administration was cooperating to keep patients comfortable.

“There are cases of hyper psychosis also as patients impact their health due to the stress they take so we try to counsel them, which is often mistaken for lack of facilities at a hospital. This isn’t the case,” she said.

But a few other patients that ThePrint spoke to claimed that consultants didn’t visit patients regularly and hence complained about lack of adequate care at the hospital.

Santosh Kumar, admitted to the hospital’s Covid-19 ward and a patient who requires dialysis, said three other hospitals turned him away before he reached Patiala.

But, he added, the hospital staff here have kept him in an isolation ward “despite his critical condition”.

“I require dialysis and oxygen support, shouldn’t I be kept separately, else even I will die,” he said.

Dr K.K. Talwar, who heads the Punjab government’s expert group on Covid-19, said that perhaps the kind of care patients expect at Rajindra doesn’t match up to the kind provided at PGI, or private hospitals or CMC and Ludhiana’s Dayanand Medical College.

He said PGI and some of the other hospitals have specialised doctors and enjoy a better reputation.

“The work culture has been such that hospitals like these can’t change overnight just because there is Covid-19,” Dr Talwar said, adding that the expert group holds two sessions every week with doctors to educate them to be more compassionate towards patients.

“One did not feel the need to go to a Rajindra Hospital in Patiala before this,” he said. “People went to PGI, so the hospital also ended up being passive in its approach. Having the right infrastructure is one thing, but having the right attitude and expertise is another.”

Also read: Punjab seeks medical grade oxygen from Haryana, other states as demand up amid Covid surge


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