In Bihar policing the pandemic and the lockdown was taken to be the cure

How are people coping with the pandemic? Five months after lockdown clamped on March 25, have things improved? Are we able to efficiently manage the crisis? A Patna couple recall their experience

  Nivedita & Dr Shakeel  
Nivedita Dr Shakeel
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Nivedita & Dr Shakeel

Bihar/Patna

I have survived Covid-19”, says Nivedita but adds, “it would have been easier had the government not been so callous and inhuman towards COVID patients”.

Acting President of Bihar MahilaSamaj, women’s wing of the CPI, her husband is a state council member of the CPI and a doctor who along with Dr A. K Gaur runs a polyclinic—a hospital catering to the marginalised sections on no profit no loss basis.

Though grateful to family, friends and doctors Nivedita is shocked at the manner in which the family was harassed by government officials. “Our son, Pushkin came from New Delhi on March 22, days before the lockdown was clamped. A few days later, we found a poster pasted on the wall of our Buddha Colony home, warning people against meeting us”, she recalls.

Pushkin underwent the Covid test and was found negative but the poster fuelling fear in mind of the people stayed on the wall for days. “Shakeel argued with police officials to remove the poster but they refused to do it. Tired of making calls to officials, he eventually called the health secretary and then the poster was finally removed”, she recalled.

Their saga with the virus began on July 23 when Dr A K Gaur, while examining patients at the Polyclinic experienced symptoms and called for a government hospital’s ambulance. But the ambulance didn’t come. Eventually, Dr Shakeel, drove Dr Gaur in his car to AIIMS, Patna.

Dr Shakeel after leaving Dr Gaur got himself tested and was reported positive. Subsequently, Nivedita too tested positive. Nivedita got more serious because she was already asthmatic and was having trouble with breathing. She was admitted to a friend Dr Satyajit Singh’s hospital-cum-nursing home. “I can’t forget the two young nurses, Rose and Pratima, who cared for me like their family members. They served me while wearing the kit. Once they put on their kit, they couldn’t eat, drink or use the toilet for eight hours, she recalled, adding, “I wonder why the government is so callous, leaving patients, doctors and nurses to their fate.”

“The central and state governments lacked the will, vision and strategy to deal with the pandemic. Take the example of Bihar: Bihar government has not created a single additional bed for Covid-19 patients, leave alone specialised Covid hospital. It has converted all the 550 beds at the Nalanda Medical College Hospital into “corona beds”, unmindful of patients suffering from other serious diseases. It has resorted to the same practice at PMCH and other hospitals,” fumes Dr Shakeel.

Bihar doesn’t have adequate RTPC test kits—the valid kit to test the corona patients—and is using RAT kit which is not reliable. Sixty to eighty percent posts of expert anaesthetists and doctors are lying vacant at the Medical College Hospitals in the state”.

“The government”, said Dr Shakeel, “took the lockdown to be the solution of the pandemic. It should have used the lockdown to replenish and rebuild the medical infrastructure to cope with the disease, which it has not done. Now you see the result,” he adds with just a trace of resignation.

(As told to Nalin Verma in Patna)

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