Several medical professionals at Hyderabad’s Gandhi General Hospital protested outside the facility on Wednesday after relatives of a deceased coronavirus patient allegedly attacked a few junior doctors, The Indian Express reported.

More than 300 postgraduate doctors at the hospital refused to resume duties till their demands were met, according to The New Indian Express. The protests, which began on Tuesday night, continued till 3 am on Wednesday and doctors resumed the sit-in protest at 8 am.

The alleged attack took place on Tuesday, around 6.30 pm, after the death of a 55-year-old patient, who was admitted to the hospital on June 6, along with his wife and son. The two accused – the son and brother-in-law of the patient – were arrested after the incident. The Gandhi General Hospital is the main hospital for the treatment of coronavirus patients in Telangana.

An unidentified junior doctor told The Indian Express that the patient was in a serious condition for the last two days. “He was advised to stay in bed and use the CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] machine for breathing,” the doctor said. “Going against medical advice he walked up to the toilet due to which there was a strain on his body and he collapsed and died. Two of the attendants [relatives] came into the hospital breaching the security.”

The doctor claimed that the patient’s kin assaulted the medical professionals with a plastic stool and an iron rod, adding that he was only saved after the staff locked their room. He also alleged that patients kin are not allowed inside the hospital and cited a lack of security and police presence.

However, North Zone Deputy Commissioner of Police Kalmeshwar Shingenavar told the newspaper that no physical assault against the doctors had occurred.

“No attendants are allowed inside the main block where positive patients are treated,” the DCP said. “The patient in question died in the Covid acute medical care unit [AMCU] on the third floor of the Casualty block where ILI [Influenza-like Illness] and SARI [Severe Acute Respiratory Infection] cases are admitted.” He added that more than 200 police personnel are present in the hospital building, and the incident took place in the spur of the moment. “It was also the change of shift for police personnel at that time,” he said.

The case against the accused was registered under certain sections of the Indian Penal Code, Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and Section 4 of the Telangana Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (prevention of violence and damage to property) Act, 2008. Shingenavar said that the arrested were produced before the magistrate.

Doctors demand more security

The Telangana Junior Doctors Association called for paramilitary forces to be stationed at the hospital, according to the Centre’s suggestions, The News Minute reported. Another demand of the doctors urged the administration to decentralise coronavirus cases at various levels to ease the pressure on one hospital. They cautioned that otherwise it could lead to a collapse of “already pathetic infrastructure”.

They also called for a permanent increase of workforce, including specialist doctors, nursing and paramedical staff, among other frontline workers. The doctors’ association said there should be sufficient provision of personal protective equipment and N95 masks for healthcare workers across public hospitals in the state.

Meanwhile, Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender urged the doctors to withdraw their protests and meet him at his office.

Earlier this month, the state government had claimed that the hospital was well-equipped to handle the coronavirus pandemic, and attempts were being made to mislead the public. The state health officials had told Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao that there were only 247 patients who were undergoing treatment at hospital, which had the capacity to treat more than 2,000 patients.

In April, the Centre had said that attacks on healthcare professionals, deployed on the frontlines to combat the coronavirus pandemic, will be a non-bailable offence and will carry an imprisonment from six months to seven years in severe cases, where there are grievous injuries.