BMHRC treatment facilities restored for Bhopal gas tragedy survivors

The hospital was excluded from list of exclusive COVID-19 centres

Shivraj-Chouhan-inspecting-hospital-Bhopal-Madhya-Pradesh-PTI Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan reviews the facilities which will be granted to coronavirus-affected patients, during a nationwide lockdown, at Advanced Institute Of Medical Sciences in Bhopal, Saturday, March 28, 2020 | PTI

In a move that is being seen as a big relief to the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors, the Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday decided to exclude the state-of-the-art Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) from the list of exclusive COVID-19 centres in the state and restore treatment facilities there for the gas tragedy survivors.

Meanwhile, hearing a petition filed by NGO Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) and a survivor (who has since died) to demand restoration of treatment facilities at BMHRC, the MP High Court on Wednesday issued notices to the state government and others, seeking their response on the matter by April 21. However, the state health department came out with orders restoring the facilities.

In the order on Wednesday by Health Commissioner Faiz Ahmed Kidwai, it was mentioned that the previous orders to turn the BMHRC into a COVID-19 treatment centre and to hand it over to the Bhopal district administration for that purpose stand cancelled. However, the COVID-19 testing lab in the hospital will continue to function.

The decision comes after concerted demands by gas tragedy survivors and NGOs working for them that the specialised treatment facilities at the hospital should be restored for the survivors who are considerably more vulnerable to respiratory infections like COVID-19 and require specialised treatment for their present health conditions consequent to the gas tragedy.

The issue was precipitated further after it was claimed that all the five deaths in Bhopal due to COVID-19 infection were those of gas tragedy survivors. The COVID positive report of 72-year-old Ashfaq Nadvi came in on Monday evening. He had died two days earlier, making him the fifth COVID-19 casualty in Bhopal.

The patients who had succumbed to the disease earlier were Naresh Khatik, 52, who died on April 5, Jagarmath Maithil, 80, who died on April 8, Imran Khan, 40 and Rajkumar Yadav, 52, both of whom died on April 11.

In case of all the five deceased, the COVID-19 positive reports came in after their deaths and there were allegations that due to closure of the BMHRC and unavailability of specialized treatment facilities elsewhere, they could not get required medical care in time.

THE WEEK did a detailed report on the issue on April 14 and took up the matter of specialised health needs of the gas tragedy survivors with the Bhopal divisional commissioner and district collector.

Apart from restoring facilities at the BMHRC, the OPD services at six other gas relief hospitals in Bhopal, that had been hit badly after lockdown and curfew was imposed in the city, were also resumed full-fledged on Tuesday, Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group of Information and Action, one of the survivors’ organisation pushing the issue, told THE WEEK. Eight dispensaries of the department also started functioning normally. Also, the survivors have been informed that COVID-19 testing facilities are to be started at Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital and Shakir Ali Hospital of the Gas Relief Department, Dhingra added.

Dhingra said that the gas tragedy survivors now hope that the OPD, IPD (in-patient department) and emergency services at the BMHRC will resume immediately so that they could get the required treatment.

Survivors’ organisations like BGIA, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and Children Against Dow and Carbide have welcomed the state government’s decision on BMHRC and expressed gratitude.

They have also demanded that the district administration now immediately release the relief amount of Rs 50 lakh to the kin of the five deceased and compensate the money they spent in private hospitals for treatment as the BMHRC was not available.

The organisations have also expressed hope that the government would work upon their suggestions for intensive awareness on COVID-19 among gas tragedy affected people at community and hospital level, early identification and testing of the gas tragedy survivors through the gas relief hospitals and mini units of BMHRC and making available critical care facilities for the survivors at the earliest.