How SKIMS Lied On Death Certificate To Cover Up Swine Flu Negligence

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Srinagar—Flanked by a dozen students in the office of the Principal, Shabnum, 19, narrates how she accompanied her college warden Shahzada to SKIMS (JVC) Bemina on October 30 after she complained of cold and cough. The college authorities had advised her to see a doctor at the nearby hospital even though she had reported for duty on that day.

Shahzada Parveen, 52, warden of Govt Girls Polytechnic College for Women, Bemina, died of “swine flu” in the SKIMS Soura, barely a day after she visited the nearby JVC hospital travelling the distance from her College to the Hospital by foot taking along two students, Shabnum and Azra.

“Reaching the hospital at around 12.00 noon, a doctor in the Emergency upon examining her told my accompanying college mate that she might be suffering from Swine Flu,” Shabnum, a 6th semester student hailing from Baramulla, said.

“Rather than admitting her in the hospital, they made her to sit on a wooden bench outside the Emergency,” she said. “She was shivering with cold but looked quite hale and hearty.”

The subsequent tests increased the chances of an H1N1infection but the JVC authorities reportedly dilly-dallied the matter and took a lot of time in referring her to the SKIMS Soura.

“They prescribed the antibiotic Augmentin but her husband informed she had already been taking the drug for the past three days. They then gave her a pain-killer injection and suspected it could be case of H1N1 infection,” Shabnum said.

“They should have immediately admitted her in the hospital or at best, sent her to the SKIMS in an ambulance. It was at 5.30 pm that she was asked to visit SKIMS Soura for further check-up.”

College hostel staffer Shabir Ahmad accompanied the warden to SKIMS after informing her husband.

“At the Emergency SKIMS, it took us a lot of time before our turn to see the doctor came,” attendant Shabir said. “A lady doctor had a casual look at the JVC referral ticket that clearly mentioned ‘influenza’ as the possible cause of cough, cold and fever but he conveniently chose to ignore it.”

“There’s nothing to worry, these JVC doctors don’t know a thing and keep on referring normal patients just like that,” the doctor had reportedly told Shabir. “Come to the OPD tomorrow,” the advice came.

“We left the hospital and went home because the doctor told that the tests that Madam had to undergo, could only be done the following day,” he said.

On 31st morning, the condition of the warden had deteriorated. She was accompanied by the hostel staffer, Shabir who took her to the OPD, SKIMS.

“Strangely, there was no doctor up to 11.15 am in the OPD of the Ward 105-107. Even a stretcher could not be arranged as the Madam could barely walk. The huge rush of patients was getting me on my nerves and I broke through the long queue and asked a senior doctor to see her. He declined to see her while pointing in the direction of another doctor,” Shabir said. “The doctor, at once, realised the mistake had been done the previous night and asked for a reason why the Emergency the night before hadn’t retained the patient. He asked me to go to the Emergency immediately.”

Around 12.30 pm, the doctors at the Emergency referred the Warden to the ICU where she was put on ventilator. “By now, the tests had confirmed she had contracted H1N1.

“When the doctor came to know I was her colleague at the College, he told me to call her husband immediately,” Shabir said.

After some time, her husband also came to the hospital, he said.

“Madam was wearing some jewellery which the doctor advised to remove immediately. Her husband, fearing he too might get the infection, declined to remove her nosepin and a ring she was wearing. I mustered courage and removed both the items from her. At this, the lady doctor admonished me why I hadn’t put on the safety gear as I could also get the infection,” narrated Shabir.

“Strangely, they had shifted Madam into the Surgical ICU while as she should have been in the H1N1 ward where other such patients were recuperating,” he said. “In the second shift, a male doctor attending to her asked me to call her family as he suspected Madam wouldn’t survive for long.”

“She eventually breathed her last at 12:45 am,” Shabir said.

Salman and Zarak, the son and daughter received the body of their mother in absolute shock and awe. Salman is a 12th grader preparing for his ongoing examination and Zerak is doing M.Tech from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

On the certificate, the date of test in a handwritten note has been mentioned as October 31, 2017 with Lab No: 1110 and Influenza HINI positive (+VE).

As the information about the death of the warden reached the college on Wednesday, tempers ran high amidst shock and disbelief. The college was shut for two days.

“How could she die just like that,” Shabnum, the student asked while wiping her tears with her scarf. “She was hale and hearty asking me to get her some food from the JVC canteen where she had gone for a check-up just a day before.

Her other mates joined her in the mourning filling the room with heart-wrenching sobs. Her mates and the staff joined the grieving choir trying to console each other.

“We’ll get the justice done,” roared the staff members. “We’ll write to the SKIMS authorities to seek an explanation how they could be so negligent with human life and also to the Women’s Commission.”

The family, still in shock, is contemplating legal action against both the JVC and the SKIMS authorities for what they describe as “cold-blooded murder” attributing the death to the doctors’ alleged negligence. “I want my mother’s ‘killers’ brought to the book,” the warden’s son Salman who couldn’t attend her last rites as he had to appear in an examination, said.

“Madam was a healthy woman and on a consolidated salary for past 22 years,” Principal Shafquat Ara said. “What can you expect from a premier healthcare facility where a person whose life could be saved if timely action is taken.”

“I don’t think they deserve to called doctors in the first place,” she fumed.

Describing the deceased warden as “Mother Teresa of our college”, Shafquat Ara had registered her anguish on her Facebook page attracting various responses from the netizens.

“Now doctors hardly feel any emergency while examining a patient,” Masooda Rajpuri who has worked as Registrar at SKIMS before, wrote in her response. “It is said a patient now is only another number in the list something not to be taken seriously.”

Meanwhile, the sobbing girls in the principal’s office are adamant they would do everything possible to get the truth behind the warden’s death to the fore. “By hiding that she was suffering from swine flu, they not only abdicated their duty, the doctors also put others at risk,” Shabnum said. “She had been with us all this while when the H1N1 virus was multiplying in her body and we could also be infected with it.”

They also questioned that when it is a clear case of swine flu, why do the authorities at Soura “hush up” the details? 

Medical superintendent SKIMS confirmed to a local daily that Shahzada died of H1N1 influenza.  “As soon as we suspected her to have influenza, we put her on anti-viral treatment and isolated her but unfortunately, she was very sick,” he claimed.

“We fear this kind of cover-up is happening at SKIMS routinely. We miss our warden, but the way we lost her and dishonesty by the hospital about the real cause of her death has made it all much worse for us, her family and the college,” the students said.

“If God forbid any other person close to the deceased warden suffers from swine flu or dies, isn’t government responsible for another negligent death,” they said and demand stern action against those responsible for the negligent death.

“She was more like a mother to us and we will not let our mother down,” said students Nida and Azra sitting next to Shabnum. “We will expose the system fraught with inefficiencies and inadequacies.”

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