Bhopal Gas Survivors Accuse Hospital of Criminal Negligence as 6 Die from Covid-19

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Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre. — Photo by A.M. Faruqui/ The Hindu

While gas victims diagnosed as covid-positive/suspect) are left to die in isolation ward of BMHRC, what is even more diabolical is that gas victims in need of ICU facilities, Pulmonary, Neurology, Gastro Surgery and Neuro-Surgery are being refused admission in the hospital

Pervez Bari | Clarion India

BHOPAL — Organisations working with the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak disaster have charged Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC), with criminal negligence and mismanagement as six gas victims suffering from covid-19 have died in the hospital’s isolation ward in the last 15 days.

The groups will bring up the plight of Bhopal gas victims and BMHRC’s negligence in a writ petition pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court on October 7 where Secretary, Health have also been summoned to appear.

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to the Supreme Court- appointed Monitoring Committee, the survivor groups have shared details of six gas victims who died in the isolation ward as there was no full-time doctor posted to administer and no treatment for covid-19 was being administered to these patients. BMHRC is a super-speciality hospital built to cater to the medical needs of Bhopal gas victims and is currently being run by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

While gas victims diagnosed as covid-positive/ suspect) are left to die in isolation ward of BMHRC, what is even more diabolical is that gas victims in need of ICU facilities, Pulmonary, Neurology, Gastro Surgery and Neuro-Surgery are being refused admission in the hospital. Data obtained under the RTI Act clearly show that almost all of these departments have reduced admission of gas victims by 2 to 11 times when compared to non-covid times.

“BMHRC’s motto is ‘In service of gas victims’ and this hospital is doing every disservice possible by wilfully ignoring the medical needs of the most vulnerable population to covid-19. ICMR is supposed to be guiding the country in dealing with covid-19, and in Bhopal they have completely failed to do so,” said Rashida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh.

Bhopal city is facing shortage of oxygen and ICU facilities for covid patients. Keeping the vulnerability of gas victims in view, BMHRC should have prepared for this crisis.

“We are hopeful that the Monitoring Committee will direct BMHRC to start a 40-bed ICU & HDU (high dependency unit) unit to cater to gas victims suffering from covid-19 at the earliest”, said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action.

Data from 8 community health units of the ICMR-run BMHRC in Bhopal from 1998 to 2016 show that 50.4% of gas affected patients suffer from Cardiovascular problems, 59.6% of them suffer from Pulmonary problems and 15.6% of them suffer from Diabetes.

As per the records of the Office of the Welfare Commissioner, Bhopal Gas Victims, 10,550 (1.84% of the gas-exposed population) have been granted ex-gratia compensation as Cancer patients. In March 2020 a letter addressed to DG, ICMR by the survivor groups had clearly stated that due to multi-systemic damage caused as a result of the exposure to toxic gases of Union Carbide, it would be safe to say that the over half a million Bhopalis exposed to Union Carbide’s gases are at least 5 times more vulnerable to covid-19 than a general population.

“Our letter which had categorically stated that unless urgent steps are taken by ICMR too many Bhopalis will suffer from covid-19 and die from it, fell on deaf ears. We painfully collect information of every city’s covid-19 death and more than 60% of city’s covid-19 deaths are of Bhopal gas victims whereas they only constitute 25% of the city’s population”, said Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha.

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