A mistake by the state health department officials and the authorities at the Villupuram Government General Hospital has proved costly for the police and the frontline workers. Four patients, including a 30-year-old hotel management graduate from Delhi, who tested positive for COVID-19 were ‘mistakenly’ declared negative even before the test results were out, and discharged by the authorities at the Villurpuram hospital. The four were taken to the hospital on Monday and discharged on Tuesday morning.
The Villupuram hospital staff realised the goof-up only in the afternoon, when they understood that they had committed a blunder. By afternoon, the hospital sought the help of the Villupuram police to trace the four patients and bring them back to the hospital. While the police managed to bring back three of the four patients, who belonged to Villupuram, police are still on the look-out for the hotel management graduate from Delhi. The authorities have now put out announcements on social media with the Delhi patient’s photo. The Puducherry police have shared information in their Whatsapp group to help trace the Delhi patient. “If suppose any of you happen to see this person anywhere please pass on the information to 04146223265,” said the announcement.
According to police sources, the man from Delhi, had come to Puducherry in December for a job interview. On December 10, as he caused a road accident, he was arrested by the Puducherry police and subsequently released on March 16, before the lockdown began. The man then left from Puducherry on March 21 to stay with a few lorry drivers from Delhi, who were staying in Villupuram.
On April 6, as he complained of COVID-19 symptoms to the local authorities, he was taken to the hospital along with 25 others for screening. All the 26 patients including the Delhi patient were secondary contacts of patients who tested positive and were in government quarantine in Villupuram town. Their swabs were collected and they were sent back home on April 7 even before the test results were out, but the health department officials advised all the 26 including the Delhi man to be in home quarantine. But as soon as the authorities got the results and understood that four out of 26 had tested positive, the hospital staff sent a message to the police to trace them.
This is the second time that the state health department staff committed a brazen mistake during the pandemic. The first instance was when the staff at the Stanley Medical College in Chennai, handed over the body of a 70-year-old man from Keelakarai in Ramanathapuram to the family of the deceased. The body was wrapped in a green cloth and handed over to the family, even before the swab test results came out. The test results returned positive for COVID-19, two days after the man was buried. The man hailing from Keelakarai, had returned from Dubai and was in home quarantine. The man was admitted to Stanley hospital at 9.45 am on April 2 and died at 11.45 am on the same day. He was earlier taking treatment in a private hospital in Chennai and because he had Corona virus symptoms he was taken to the Stanely hospital. The hospital handed over the body which was taken from Chennai to Keelakarai in Ramanathapuram by ambulance. The family had kept the body at their Keelakarai residence for a day for the relatives to pay homage and then was buried. At least 300 people including a former minister attended the funeral. At least 100 people including 11 of the man’s family members are in home quarantine now and the entire Keelakarai village has been turned into a containment zone.
Meanwhile, an FIR was registered on April 3 by the Keelakarai police agianst the deceased man’s two sons for taking his body from the hospital. The FIR has been registered under sections 188, 269, 270 and 278 of IPC, 51 (b) of Disaster Management Act. The case has been filed based on a complaint by Keelakarai VAO, according to the FIR. It may be recalled that proper permission and passes have to be issued by the authorities for transporting the body even in an ambulance. Sources say the body of the 70-year old deceased was taken in three ambulances, by shifting from one to another at the border of each district due to the lockdown. Three ambulances - one from Chennai to Villupuram, second from Villupuram to Trichy and then the third from Trichy to Keelakarai in Ramanathapuram were used to transport the body. As Section 144 is in place, only 108 ambulances which is under the direct control of the health department are allowed to ply.