New Delhi: Two doctors who took to social media to complain about a shortage of medical equipment, including protective face masks, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis have been at the receiving end of Twitter hate, and even accused of being anti-government.
Dr Kamna Kakkar and Dr Vasundhara Sangwan, who are attached to different hospitals in different states, had posted about a lack of essential medical supplies earlier this week and urged authorities to address the issue.
The tweets, posted a day apart, irked some Twitter users, while others dismissed them as fake.
The controversy comes at a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on people to applaud those on the forefront battling the novel coronavirus — mainly medical personnel and others providing essential services.
Dr Kamna Kakkar began posting on 23 March (Monday), raising the issue of a shortage of face masks. She claimed no arrangements were being made to ensure availability of these essential items in the hospital.
“When masks and other security equipment finally arrive, please bring them to my grave,” read one of the tweets.
Dr Kakkar works with the Department of Anaesthesia at PGI Rohtak in Haryana.
Her Twitter feed garnered quite a following, including among the medical community which retweeted her. One of her tweets was also retweeted by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
However, claims that the account is fake soon started doing the rounds.
When ThePrint reached out to her, Dr Kakkar confirmed she had posted the tweets, but added she did not want to sensationalise the issue. She said her intention was to draw the local and central governments’ attention to the shortage of essential medical facilities.
She also clarified that she is not associated with any party and/or organisation.
“I am very serious about my work and my profession. I am equally concerned about health and well-being of fellow doctors who are serving the common people,” she said, adding she has been a practising medical professional for around nine years now.
Hello fake doc pic.twitter.com/faJsJhgKiM
— popat lal 🌂 (@oxide_0) March 24, 2020
The account was deactivated by Tuesday, but not before an apology was posted for the previous tweets. The post said Dr Kakkar had no information about the availability of the masks.
Seems like @drkamnakakkar apologised for spreading misinformation and Deactivated/Deleted her account. Police need to deal with Rumourmonger strictly as any disinformation can cause mass panic pic.twitter.com/68TFBeL3vf
— Rishi Bagree 🇮🇳 (@rishibagree) March 24, 2020
The nodal officer for control and management of the Covid-19 pandemic at PGIMS Rohtak clarified there was no shortage of essential medical equipment or protective gear, according to a news report.
‘It was my brother’
A day after Dr Kakkar tweeted, another account under the name of Dr Vasundhara Sangwan began posting about the lack of masks. According to the user’s Twitter bio, Dr Sangwan is studying for her Masters in Medicine in Jaipur.
Dr Sangwan’s tweets also quickly gained traction, following which the user posted another tweet that clarified the doctor had no political affiliations.
When ThePrint spoke to Dr Sangwan, she said it wasn’t her who tweeted but added that the information was true.
“Those who are calling me fake are completely wrong. I had talked about my working conditions, images and current atmosphere in my family’s WhatsApp group. My brother took some information from that chat and shared it on Twitter to create more awareness among the people. My brother had also changed his Twitter ID with my name,” she said.
These tweets have since been deleted.
Dr Sangwan said the posts had garnered so much negative response that her brother deleted them. He was hoping people would take the issue seriously but instead got trolled, she added. Both the doctor’s parents are in government service.
Doctors being ostracised
There have been reports of people misbehaving with doctors and harassing them since their chances of being exposed to the virus are higher.
Colony members and landlords have allegedly been forcing people from the medical community to vacate their homes.
Doctors have also been struggling for meals since several hospital canteens have closed down as part of the lockdown measures.
The Association of Resident Doctors from AIIMS had written to Home Minister Amit Shah, who later issued an order to take tough action against those harassing medical personnel.