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Bhopal’s 5 Covid-19 fatalities were 1984 gas tragedy survivors

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Medics screen patients as part of a precautionary measure against novel coronavirus | Representational image | PTI Photo
Medics screen patients as part of a precautionary measure against novel coronavirus | Representational image | PTI Photo


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Bhopal: All five persons who died due to coronavirus in Bhopal were victims of the 1984 gas tragedy in the Madhya Pradesh capital, an official said on Wednesday.

On March 21, some organisations working for the survivors of Bhopal gas tragedy wrote to the authorities concerned, saying such people were more vulnerable to the coronavirus infection than normal individuals.

“All the five persons who died after contracting COVID-19 here were victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy,” the official said.

The Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Center (BMHRC), a dedicated facility for the treatment of gas mishap survivors, was recently turned into a medical facility for coronavirus patients, causing hardship to these people, Rachna Dhingra, member of the NGO Bhopal Group for Information and Action, told PTI.

The first coronavirus victim from Bhopal, a 55-year- old man, died at a city hospital on April 5 due to negligence of authorities, she alleged.

Another 80-year-old gas tragedy victim, who was a retired employee of the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), was also not given due medical care. He died on April 8 and his sample came out positive for coronavirus on April 11, Dhingra said.

Besides, a 40-year-old gas tragedy victim, who was suffering from oral cancer for more than a year, died on April 12 and his sample test report later came out positive for coronavirus, she said.

Another 52-year-old gas mishap survivor, who suffered from a permanent injury, had history of tuberculosis and could not get prompt care for his respiratory problems.

He recently tested positive for coronavirus and died on his way to the COVID-19 ward at Hamidia hospital, she said.

Also, a 75-year-old senior journalist, who survived the gas tragedy, died on April 11 and his sample test report came out positive for coronairus on Tuesday, she said.

On March 21, some organisations working for the welfare of gas tragedy survivors wrote to the state and central authorities concerned, saying an overwhelming number of gas victims suffer from respiratory, cardiovascular, kidney problems and cancer as a result of exposure to the toxic gas that leaked at the Union Carbide factory here in 1984.

They claimed that these survivors were at least five times more vulnerable to COVID-19 than other people.

Instead of paying special attention to the needs of Bhopal gas victims, the state government took over BMHRCand turned it into a medical facility for COVID-19 patients, Dhingra said.

For last 22 days, no gas victim was even allowed to avail emergency services there, she said.


Also read: It took India 74 days to cross 10,000 Covid-19 cases — much slower than US, UK


Dhingra said before BMHRC was converted into a dedicated facility for coronavirus patients, 86 gas tragedy survivors were admitted there.

After it was made a hospital for COVID-19 patients, all except five were discharged. Out of these five, a 68- year-old woman died at the hospital due to ailments related to the gas mishap, she said.

Besides, out of the gas tragedy survivors discharged from BMHRC, two persons, both aged around 70, died at their homes while another one died at a city hospital due to the gas leak mishap related illnesses, she said.

In a letter to gas relief hospital’s monitoring committee chairman, retd Justice V K Agrawal, the NGOs pointed out all these aspects and urged him to re-start the medical facility for gas victims considering their vulnerability.

The NGOs have also filed a writ petition in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, demanding that gas victims be provided a dedicated medical facility for their treatment, as was the practice earlier.

Meanwhile, taking note of the death of five gas tragedy victims due to coronavirus, the state government has decided to categorise BMHRC as a ‘COVID Health Centre’ where gas mishap survivors can continue to avail treatment for their ailments.

An order to this effect was issued late Tuesday evening, a health department official said.

“Now, gas victims can continue to get treatment as usual in BMHRC, he said.

Bhopal Divisional Commissioner Kalpana Shrivastava said the earlier decision to make BMHRC a dedicated facility for COVID-19 patients was taken at the “government level”.

Dhingra said the Out Patient Departments (OPDs) in other government hospitals of Bhopal continue to remain open for gas incident survivors.

Arif Aqueel, the former state minister of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department, said the earlier decision to close BMHRC for gas victims was not in the interest of these people, and they should be given treatment at this facility on priority, especially in the OPD.


Also read: Covid-19 cases in India cross 11,000 mark, death toll rises to 377


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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