“I want to ask the government why my father was released from hospital when he was sick with the coronavirus,” Makwana, a 45-year-old textile mill worker, told HuffPost India over the phone on Sunday, two days after he cremated his father.
“I want to ask the government what happened to my father,” he said.
Makwana said the police had phoned him on 15 May and said that his father Ganpatbhai Varubhai Makwana was found dead at the BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) in the Danilimda locality in Ahmedabad, around 500 meters from where they live.
Makwana said the deceased was 67-years-old, a father to three sons, and he had worked with him in the same textile mill.
The shocking circumstances of his death raise questions like why the coronavirus patient was released from the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad on 14 May, just four days after he was admitted to the hospital, and why his family was not informed that he was being released.
As news of Ganpatbhai Varubhai Makwana’s death triggered outrage on Sunday, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani directed the former health secretary of Gujarat J.P. Gupta to carry out a probe and submit a report within 24 hours.
With more than 11,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 659 deaths, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state is second only to Maharashtra in the numbers count. A bigger concern, experts point out, is its high fatality rate, prompting the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government to set up a panel to look into the reasons.
The Gujarat Police has registered a case of accidental death and is piecing together the chain of events that led to Makwana’s death, The Press Trust of India reported.
Jignesh Mevani, an independent state lawmaker in Gujarat, said, “This is criminal negligence. Why has no criminal offense been registered?”
I want to ask the government what happened to my father.
The police and hospital authorities have offered different versions of how the elderly man was discharged on 14 March.
Bipin Ahire, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of zone 6 in Ahmedabad, told HuffPost India that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, but was released from the Civil Hospital on the night of 14 May and told to self-isolate at home.
Ahire said that an ambulance from the hospital dropped the elderly man “close to his home” that same night.
The former medical superintendent of the Civil Hospital, M.M. Prabhakar, who has been brought back to look after the coronavirus patients, did not respond to a call and text message from HuffPost India, but he told The Hindu that the elderly man was discharged and advised home quarantine after he did not develop any symptoms. Prabhakar told PTI that he left for home on a city bus.
If an ambulance dropped him “close to his home” as per Ahire, the question is why the hospital staff did not ensure the elderly man did not reach his home safely.
If he left for home in a city bus as per Prabhakar, the question is why an elderly man sick with the coronavirus was allowed to leave the hospital on his own.
Makwana said that his father did not have a mobile phone, but he had written down his own number on a piece of paper and left it with him along with Rs. 100-150.
“I have not heard anything about an ambulance or a city bus,” he said. “When I took him to a hospital, he was in no position to travel by himself on a bus.”
Ahire said the family had told the police that the elderly man was not even in a position to walk 100 meters on his own.
Makwana said that he wanted to know why his father’s post mortem was conducted at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (SVP), instead of the Civil Hospital where he was admitted as a coronavirus patient.
“The last time I spoke to him is when I left him at the hospital,” he said. “I had expected that since he was sick, and had the coronavirus, he would be at the hospital for several days. He was not in a state to go anywhere. They left him when he was in such a poor state.”
Regarding the probe announced by CM Rupani, Mevani, the MLA from Vadgam constituency, said, “Was the family informed while setting up the inquiry? Why should they believe a convenient report made by convenient officers? Why can’t the government form a four member team with one person from the police side and the others from the medical side suggested by the family if it really wants to carry out a fair investigation?”
He was not in a state to go anywhere. They left him when he was in such a poor state.
‘I carried my father on my shoulders’
Makwana said that his father fell sick on 10 May and was admitted to the Civil Hospital that same day.
His family had checked online on 13 May and found his name on a list of coronavirus positive patients, Makwana said. On 14 May, he said, “the quarantine people” came and stuck the red poster used to convey a family is under home quarantine.
Makwana said the police phoned and informed him about his father at around ten in the morning on 15 May.
“They only called after the post mortem was conducted because they found the paper with the mobile phone number,” he said.
Makwana said that he had left for the SVP Hospital wearing a mask, but the hospital gave him nothing.
The hospital staffers sprayed his father’s body with sanitiser that he reportedly paid for. Makwana said that he even had to buy a plastic sheet to wrap him up and carry him to a cemetery close to the hospital.
“I dialled 102 for an ambulance, but they said it could take five or six hours to send one,” he said. “I carried my father on my shoulders.”