WB bans cell phones in hospitals after video showing dead bodies next to Covid-19 suspects goes viral

Shockers emerge from the state of West Bengal one after another, leaving the nation stunned at the shameless politics at play. While the state has officially declared at least three Covid-10 red zone districts (unofficially the situation is far worse as per many experts), the recklessness with which Mamata Banerjee’s health ministry is addressing the pandemic threat is incredulous. 

A recent video that went viral on social media and was also shared by Babul Supriyo, BJP MP from Asansol, documents the experience of a suspected Covid-19 case who has been admitted to the isolation ward at Tollygunge‘s M.R. Bangur Hospital. The patient gives an account of the deplorable conditions of the said facility.

The Covid-19 suspect, who says he is asymptomatic and awaiting test results, says that people like him are being kept in the same isolation ward as patients in serious condition. Shockingly, he shows unattended dead bodies lying around for hours and hidden behind curtains. 

The patient in the video alleges that hospital authorities made no provisions to dispose off these bodies, and showed on camera, the staggering disregard for social distancing in the ward. He supported his claim by citing two Covid suspects being positioned closely to a corpse. 

We are made to understand that the health situation in Bengal is turning worse by the hour, and there are no provisions for having rapid tests. After tests are taken, the suspects are subjected to prolonged delays of 4 to 5 days for results. With patients and Covid suspects being crammed together, and everyone getting exposed to the virus, chances of getting infected in the hospital rises. 

The man narrates that he has been in the hospital since last Thursday and has witnessed 5 to 6 deaths in the ward. They have mostly died of respiratory problems, and in all probability were Covid-19 positive cases. Reportedly, the patients died before the test results arrived and there is no information about the disposal of the corpses. 

He also shows us an elderly man who was absolutely okay when he had first come to the hospital. But he has started to cough now after staying in the hospital for a while. This comes off as an alarming situation, if uninfected people are catching the disease from hospitals. It only goes on to demonstrate how unhygienic and infested the medical facilities of Bengal have become, and the utter lack of proper segregation of Covid19 cases. Given that Tollygunge is a major location of the state capital, one shudders to imagine what could be the situation in remote villages. 

The best way of disposing dead bodies is cremating them as immediately as they expire. Even burying the bodies is not recommended. And in the state of West Bengal, bodies were placed right by patients who may or may not be infected, but are vulnerable to the virus from the dead bodies lying beside. 

While sharing the video via Twitter, Asansol MP Babul Supriyo demanded an investigation into the matter with absolute transparency. But Kolkata police arrested the youth who made and circulated the video on Tuesday evening, instead. Identified as Somnath Das, he was being interrogated by state police, after his results came out negative. 

Instead of taking action on the reported negligence, Bengal health ministry seems to have introduced new ways of keeping information from reaching people. After the video exposed the questionable functioning of West Bengal’s hospitals, the state directorate has banned the usage of cell phones in all hospitals where Coronavirus treatment is taking place. A notice has been sent to District Magistrates of all districts, Chief Health Officers and Superintendents of Corona Hospitals throughout the state by State Secretariat, Nabanna. Hilarious as it may seem, the guideline claims that the Coronavirus can spread through mobile phones, and hence the directive against carrying them inside hospitals. 

The rule applies to patients, and all medical staff including doctors. All mobile phones will have to be deposited before entering the premises, and the owners will be handed a receipt. These instruments will be stored in a repository and owners will be able to pick up their phones after producing the receipt at the storage counter. Patients will be provided with a basic phone and intercom facilities within the hospital premise. The order must be implemented in all West Bengal hospitals treating Covid-19 patients. 

Governor of Meghalaya, Tathagata Roy, was moved to make a caustic tweet about the critical yet farcical situation in his home state  – “Two things I’ve never heard of in my life. Will someone please bear me out or rebut me? 1. Mobile phones help spread corona and are therefore dangerous. 2. Death certificates ought to be given not by the attending doctor but by a committee with economists and retired bureaucrats?


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