'He Was Even Denied a Bed': Lawyer Moves SC After Grandfather Died

Udian and his family's struggle in fighting COVID-19 is a grim reminder of Delhi's poor health care facility.

Updated17 Jun 2020, 08:29 AM IST
Coronavirus
4 min read

"He did not have any comorbidity. He was fit and active at the age of 86. I lost him due to the negligence and manhandling by the Safdarjung hospital and the state authorities."

27-year-old Udian Sharma, an Advocate by profession, a COVID-19 survivor himself, remembers his grandfather Jagdish Chand Gautam, who he lost on 30 May, outside Delhi's Safdarjung hospital after he was allegedly made to wait at the gate for more than 4 hours with his oxygen saturation at 82 and refused basic medication, bed or ventilator.

Stirred by the death of his beloved grandfather, Sharma has moved the Supreme Court of India seeking intervention in the suo moto case registered regarding the treatment of COVID-19 patients and handling of the dead bodies in hospitals. The matter will be heard on Wednesday, 17 June.

Adding to the anguish, his whole family including his 82-year-old grandmother are fighting the virus but without any intervention or assistance from the hospital and authorities.

Udian and his family's struggle in fighting COVID-19 is a grim reminder of Delhi's poor health care facility amid a rising number of cases.

As an advocate, he has decided to ensure that no other family goes through "complete apathy" while suffering from COVID-19 in Delhi. His application will be heard in SC on Wednesday.

"Due to the grave violation of fundamental rights to live and to die with dignity, I decided to take action against the State, not through seeking damages but through the writ jurisdiction, hoping this might help other families suffering from COVID," he told FIT.

'Complete Apathy & Disorganised State of Affairs in Delhi'

Udian and his family live near Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. When the family first showed COVID symptoms, they tried reaching out to doctors but couldn't get much help.

"The Applicant at the start could not even get tested. The Government hospitals, without any reason were denying tests even to symptomatic patients, and to get tested from a reputable private lab was an impossible task due to their delayed appointments and technical online process," reads his application submitted to SC.

He, then, took his grandfather to central government run RML hospital in Delhi where his test was conducted on 28 May, after standing in multiple queues for 6 hours while running high fever and weakness due to the virus. Despite being symptomatic, his grandfather was not admitted by the hospital. Two days later, on 30 May, when his condition deteriorated and he started feeling breathless, the family again took him to RML but the hospital further referred him to Safdarjung hospital.

It is at Safdarjung hospital where the sorry state of affairs in the National capital became more evident as the hospital not only denied bed or oxygen supply to an elderly patient who was running 104.2 but denied basic medication and first aid, alleges Sharma.

According to Sharma, they waited for four hours before his "dada ji" passed away.

His whole family including him had a high fever when his grandfather passed away but none of the authorities contacted them for testing or sanitisation process at home.

The positive test report of his grandfather was shared with the family 4 days after the test. By then, he had passed away.

Sharma alleged that his family had to beg RML hospital for the report so that they could collect the body from Safdarjung hospital, which gave patient entry after his death.

"The Applicant is filing the present application in his personal capacity to highlight the complete apathy and disorganised state of affairs prevalent in the State of Delhi as well as in the entire country, from the horrid experiences he and his family faced in fighting the virus while suffering a loss of kin," reads Sharma's application.

'Grave Difficulties While Performing Last Rites'

After 24 hours of Jagdish Chand Gautam's death, the hospital asked the family to collect the body. Sharma alleges the hospital failed to explain protocol and guidelines regarding the last rites.

27-year-old advocate told FIT that the authorities were not following the protocol for the cremation of the dead bodies who had passed away due to COVID-19.

His application reads,

"Family faced grave difficulties while performing the last rites of their grandfather, there is no mechanism which is being uniformly followed by the authorities in assisting the grieving families."

He says that ICMR guidelines on the management of COVID dead bodies were violated.

"The health departments grossly failed in performing their duties post the death of a family member from COVID-19. No one from the hospital or the health department came to visit the family, even when they were informed that the entire family had severe symptoms and there were other elders at the house," he said in his application.

In Memory of 'Dada ji', Udian's Prayer to SC

In his Prayer to the top court, Sharma has sought implementation of the guidelines dated 15 March issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the management of dead body of COVID-19 patients.

He further pleads, direct "concerned government authorities to mandatorily attend to the family members of the deceased, firstly to assist them, to sensitise them regarding the prevention of outspread of this virus, and for contact tracing."

Further, this is his request to the SC:

  • Direct the State agencies and hospital authorities to send results/reports to the patients within 48 hours, especially earlier in cases where the patients are at a higher risk for severe illness.

  • Direct the State agencies to devise a policy for the testing process at the government hospitals, which shall significantly reduce the time taken for any person to get tested, and eventually reduce the risk of exposure.

  • Direct the government hospitals, to keep a supply of medicines, especially paracetamol capsules to control high fever for the patients as a measure of first aid.

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Published: 17 Jun 2020, 03:55 AM IST

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