Life in Punjab’s isolation ward: Irregular meals, attendants who visit at will amid endless wait for test reports

"My swab test was done on the same day and till date I am waiting for my test report. Doctor comes once a day in the ward and after that we are all alone."

After landing at Ludhiana Civil Hospital’s isolation ward on April 6 afternoon, Suman (25) has been patiently waiting for her test report for five days. She shares the ward with Shyam Singh (24), a male patient who came here a week back. While Suman’s father visits her once a day, she claims that Shyam Singh’s wife sleeps in the ward to look after her husband. There is also a complaint about the hospital serving irregular meals. But health authorities deny any lapses in following isolation ward protocols.

Talking to The Indian Express, Suman said: “I work at a general store in Janta Nagar area and stay in the same area along with my parents and two siblings. I had mild fever on April 5 and the same night, I started feeling breathless. I went to the nearby doctor who did not treat me and later went to two private hospitals and finally landed at Civil Hospital on April 6 afternoon. My swab test was done on the same day and till date I am waiting for my test report. Doctor comes once a day in the ward and after that we are all alone.”

Shashi Kant, a hosiery factory worker and father of Suman, said, “She is feeling better now, she had chest congestion and mild fever. But she has been kept as a suspected patient. We don’t mind, but at least we need to know the report. I fear for her as she uses the same toilet which others in the ward have been using. They don’t get meals on time. Every morning, I go and give her tea, biscuits and water. I also gave her soap and sanitizer as she did not get any in the ward.”

Suman said, “On April 9, I did not get dinner and breakfast and managed with biscuits given by my father, while on April 8, I got dinner but no lunch. On April 7, I got no meals at all. Friday, I have got all meals. But no details about test report.”

Shyam Singh, the second suspected patient, hails from Mullanpur. He came with stomach ache and cough and is also waiting for test report for the past one week. Though he is a suspected patient, but his wife Sangita often comes inside ward to take care of her husband.

“Her husband cries with stomach pain most of the time and hence she comes to take care. When there is no health official around at that time, she has to come as she can’t see her husband in pain,” Suman said while talking with The Indian Express. She even sleeps during night hours in the same ward, added Suman.

About visiting the ward to meet his daughter, Shashi Kant, who also talks to her over phone a number of times in a day, said,” I have no choice but to go daily to give tea and biscuits to her as she does not get meals on time. It is good that one patient has tested negative, but the way, they are staying in one ward, I fear the worst. This way, I could have taken care of her at home as well. At least, she could have been got food in time.”

Another patient who was in the ward with them, Alam (30), tested negative on Friday and was allowed to go home. Though now discharged, Alam, claimed Suman, was given no medicine by the hospital and he took them on his own.

Dr Ravi Dutt, Senior Medical Officer of Civil Hospital when contacted, said, “These days testing has been increased and hence it is getting time for report to come. However, our NGO ‘Ann Jal Sewa’ is providing meals to patients. I don’t think anyone is not getting meals in proper time.”

Denying any lapses in following the health advisory, Dr Dutt expressed surprise over attendant of one patient staying in the same ward. He said,”This is wrong information and patient is telling a lie. Cops are their outside the isolation ward to see all this. If this has happened, I will take up the matter with police commissioner, as cops are supposed to check all this.”

(Names of patients and their relatives changed to protect identity)

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