A 46-year-old nurse, who worked at a private hospital in Delhi and died of the coronavirus, was allegedly made to reuse personal protective equipment, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday. Ambika PK, a native of Kerala, was working at Kalra Hospital in Kirti Nagar and died at the Safdarjung Hospital on Sunday. She is the first nurse to have died of the virus in Delhi.
Her colleagues alleged that the hospital, which is not a designated centre to treat coronavirus patients, asked nurses to reuse personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks. “While the doctors were given fresh PPE, the nurses were asked to reuse PPE,” a nurse at Kalra Hospital told the newspaper.
Health workers dealing with rising coronavirus cases need to change their PPE several times a day. Last week, the Centre said India has significantly ramped up its domestic production capacity of PPEs and N-95 masks, and the requirements of the states and Union Territories were being sufficiently met.
Dr RN Kalra, owner of the hospital, denied the allegations and claimed that adequate PPE and hand sanitisers were being provided to all employees. “I have not received a single complaint from any staffer,” he added. “If there is a single discrepancy, I will investigate and take strict action.”
Nurses in-charge S Wilson and Anita Soni also denied the allegations. “PPE, gloves and sanitisers are available in bulk,” Soni added.
On her last day, Ambika got into an argument with the nursing in-charge about “not getting fresh PPE and masks”, an unidentified senior nurse told The Indian Express. Another senior nurse who worked in the intensive care unit with the victim confirmed the claims.
She worked in the hospital till May 18 and was admitted to Safdarjung Hospital on May 21 after she had trouble breathing.
Ambika worked as a nurse at the Kalra Hospital for over a decade, and lived in Delhi with her daughter. Her husband Sanil Kumar works in Malaysia, while her 22-year-old son Akhil lives in Kerala.
“My mother’s condition deteriorated so rapidly,” Akhil told the newspaper. “I couldn’t understand how to get here sooner. Over a week ago, she mentioned that the hospital was making her reuse PPE and charging money for masks. I got agitated and told her to just stay at home, but she didn’t listen to me. She continued working, and now she is dead.”
Another nurse at the Kalra Hospital said many of them have decided not to go to work till adequate safety arrangements were made for them. “Today it’s Ambika, tomorrow it can be me,” she added. “I have not reported to work since Ambika’s death. Our neighbours aren’t happy about having a nurse next door.”
She also alleged that discarded PPEs were rotated among the nurses for two months. “Some of us stopped wearing PPE,” she said.
Anto Antony, MP from Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district, where Ambika hailed from, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday. He said private hospitals in the Capital are not providing protective material, including N95 masks, to the staff. He requested Modi to release of insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh to Ambika’s family, while he asked a compensation of Rs 1 crore from Kejriwal government.
“Her untimely death raises several questions regarding safety of the nurses working in hospitals,” he said in his letter.
Delhi has so far recorded 14,053 coronavirus cases and 276 deaths, according to the figures from the health ministry.