Ahmedabad: Residents of Ahmedabad in Gujarat appear to have become sceptical about getting themselves tested for Covid-19 or seeking treatment at government hospitals and facilities in the city, which is resulting in late identification of the disease and, thus, increasing the risk of fatalities.
The state has recorded the highest mortality rate in the country at 4.09 per cent — way ahead of the national average of 2.18 per cent. Doctors had earlier revealed that the prime reason behind the high mortality rate was late identification of the disease.
As of Saturday evening, Ahmedabad has a total of 26,341 cases and the death toll stands at 1,593, according to Gujarat government data.
The city, at present, has over 290 micro-containment zones.
Dr Bhavin Solanki, Medical Officer of Health, Ahmedabad, told ThePrint, “A spot is declared a micro-containment zone if there are a minimum of 4 to 5 cases there. Since, we have ramped up testing, the number of these zones is not going to decrease.”
In May, central Ahmedabad had witnessed a spike in cases. However, the outbreak has now spread to the western parts of the city. Dr Solanki said the maximum number of containment zones have now been recorded in the north-west zone and south-west zone of the city.
ThePrint visited the western zones and found out that poor conditions of government hospitals, fear of being taken away to quarantine centres and ‘embarrassment’ of turning out to be Covid-positive are some of the reasons behind patients not willing to get themselves tested and seek treatment.
Chandrika, 30, was in tears when she found out on 28 July that she tested positive for Covid-19 at Naranpura Urban Health Centre in western Ahmedabad. Her husband tried to persuade her to go to the hospital since she was 6 months pregnant. But Chandrika remained adamant.
“I am scared to go to the hospital,” she said.
Chandrika isn’t unreasonable in her apprehensions about going to government hospitals in Ahmedabad.
The biggest government Covid facility in the city, Civil Hospital, got bad press when the Gujarat High Court in May slammed it for its ‘pathetic’ and ‘painful’ condition.
The hospital also hit the headlines after a 67-year-old textile worker’s body was found at a bus stop, nearly 10 km away from the Civil Hospital, a day after he was discharged from the facility. His family alleged negligence on the part of the hospital’s administration.
This was followed by a slew of WhatsApp forwards that asked people to steer clear of the hospital, according to residents and doctors of private hospitals.
The residents even started blaming the hospital for deaths due to the virus.
Jamalpur resident Yasin Mandsorwala, 58, who has recovered from coronavirus, told ThePrint, “The conditions of the hospital were so bad that there was a time when the number of patients dying in the hospital was more than the number of patients getting discharged. Everyone was scared to go to that particular hospital.”
According to media reports in May, data from Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) showed that since the beginning of the Covid outbreak, 343 patients had died after being treated at the Civil Hospital, while only 338 patients had been discharged.
“When I tested positive for coronavirus (in May), I made sure that I wasn’t admitted to Civil Hospital,” added Mandsorwala, a businessman, who was treated at the government-run SVP Hospital in the city.
The Civil Hospital, however, seems to have cleaned up its act now as its doctors said discharge rate has significantly gone up and the mortality rate gone down.
Fear of being taken away to quarantine centres
People are so sceptical about Covid testing that residents of Jamalpur and Juhapura told ThePrint that even when the Dhanvantri vans used to come to their neighbourhoods, they would get scared.
Launched on 15 May, the Dhanvantri Raths are medical vans that have been converted into mobile clinics to conduct on-field medical testing and diagnosis across the city. Each van consists of a doctor, a nurse and a paramedic.
Residents said they feared that they would be taken away to quarantine centres and, therefore, they didn’t get tested.
Dr Devi Shastri, Medical Officer at the Urban Health Centre in Sankalitnagar, which is a part of the Muslim-dominated Juhapura, told ThePrint, “Muslims in the area were very sceptical of hospitals like Civil hospital and SVP Hospital in Ahmedabad.”
Shastri said, especially in the backdrop of the Tablighi Jamaat incident, Muslims were scared to even get themselves tested, and if some of them tested positive, they didn’t want to seek treatment in government hospitals.
“In light of this situation, we set up a Covid facility in the Aamena Khatun Hospital on 9 June. Since then, locals have been more comfortable and confident in seeking treatment for the disease,” Shastri added.
‘Embarrassment’ of testing positive for Covid
Mohammad Sheikh, 58, a retired employee, who tested positive for Covid-19 nearly 10 days ago, said that he didn’t want to go to a government hospital for treatment.
He said he was asked to admit himself to a hospital as he was a diabetic.
After much coaxing by his family members, Sheikh got himself admitted to a government hospital and was discharged a few days ago.
“I think this is just a scandal. I didn’t have any symptoms and didn’t want to go to the hospital. But I was asked to because of my age… I have heard that these swabs are contaminated,” he told ThePrint.
After his discharge, he was under home-isolation and a quarantine sticker was pasted on his front door. He said it was “dangerous”.
“It becomes embarrassing for us since people are so scared around us all the time,” he said.
Roshan Vora, Municipal Councillor in Ahmedabad, had also tested positive for coronavirus two weeks ago.
“My husband had a high fever for eight days… So, he got tested and was found to be positive. Later, me and my children also tested positive,” said Vora.
Asked why she waited eight days before getting her husband tested, Vora said because they didn’t think it was necessary. “Zaroori nahi laga,” she said.
A 34-year-old auto rickshaw driver, who didn’t want to be named and is currently under quarantine, said: “I don’t have any symptoms right now. But, even if I am not sick, quarantine will make me mentally sick.” He tested positive last week.
Lack of communication between doctors and patients
Patients who have recovered from the virus now complain about a lack of communication between doctors and patients, which is leading to others fearing to seek treatment.
College student Bilal Nagori, 23, said, “My father had been admitted to the (Civil) hospital. When he got tested, the doctors didn’t even reveal the results of the test.”
He said that his father had been in dire need of blood, but the doctors didn’t share this information either. “The doctors only called us to inform that my father had died,” he added.
Jamalpur resident Yamin, a 19-year-old student, said he and eight other members of his family tested positive in May, but only he was taken to a Covid facility.
“None of us had symptoms, but we tested positive anyway. But, I was separated from my family and taken to Samras hostel, which had been set up as a Covid facility.”
He said that this facility was catering to over 1,600 Covid patients, but only had 10 doctors.
“I spent over 22 days in that facility even though the quarantine period is 14 days. The doctors wouldn’t reveal any information,” Yamin added.
Another resident of the area, Shehzaad Sayyad, 28, who was quarantined in the same facility, said, “During my 19-day stay there, they tested me 6 times.”
“Even if someone tested negative, they were asked to live in the same ward as Covid-positive patients,” he added.
Sayyad also alleged that due to lack of staff, some Covid patients themselves had to serve food at the facility.
Jamalpur MLA Imran Khedawala told ThePrint the area has a population of 2 lakh 20 thousand, but only 70 Covid tests are being done daily.