Suspected to be infected, man dies at Amravati hospital’s isolation ward, later tests negative

Vivek Deshpande
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At Amravati, he was put in an isolation ward but died the next day, March 23. His test later came negative

A daily wager had to pay with his life for lack of COVID-19 testing facilities in areas like Melghat in Amravati when he was shifted to the isolation ward of the district hospital after he showed symptoms similar to the virus. What he actually needed was treatment for a heart ailment.

A resident of Dharni tahsil in Amravati's Melghat, Anil Mawaskar died on March 23. He later tested nagative for the virus.

Mawaskar had first developed symptoms similar to COVID-19, along with chest pain, on March 20. He went to a local doctor who gave him painkillers and intra-veinous fluids. He returned home only to develop the same symptoms the next day.

He was then refereed to the sub-district hospital that referred him to the hospital run by MAHAN Trust headed by Ashish Satav – a doctor serving the Melghat tribals for the last two decades – since his condition was worsening and the next referral centre at Amravati was four hours away.

Vipin Khadse of MAHAN hospital said: “We suspected COVID-19 and started treating him after wearing protective gear. He was given oxygen support since he had difficulty in breathing but his distress was unbearable. As per government order, respiratory distress ceases have to be referred to Amravati. But he started feeling better with SPO2 count increasing from 50 to 70 per cent.”

“However, his ECG showed left arterial and ventricular enlargement. We concluded he had pulmonary edema. It later subsided and the SPO2 count rose to 96 per cent with ventilator support. But as there is no COVID-19 testing facility in Melghat, we decided to refer him to Amravati's district hospital. He was shifted in an ambulance with ventilator support," he added.

At Amravati, he was put in COVID-19 isolation ward but he died the next day. His test later came negative.

"Anil's case has raised many questions. If he could have been diagnosed while at Melghat, his life could have been saved... he could have been straightaway shifted to intensive cardiac care unit at Amravati," said Satav.

"Is it safe to send poor patients from Melghat to Amravati for COVID-19 testing just because there is no testing facility in areas like Melghat?” he asked.

“They can die while travelling through the mountains of Melghat and also becaused of the high travel time. We are not sure how many such deaths could occur due to lack of testing facilities in areas like Melghat," he added.

On bringing the body back to Melghat, Satav said: "The ambulence service will cost a lot. The poor people from Melghat won't be able to afford it. A COVID-19 testing facility at Melghat would facilitate sending of only positive cases to Amravati. It's time to fairly distribute resources with tribal and hilly regions being the first priority.”

Amravati Collector Shailesh Naval said, "We may have a COVID-19 ward at Achalpur, which is closer to Melghat, but we need dedicated medical staff first. Till then, there's is no alternative to bringing all COVID-19 patients to Amravati."