43-yr-old woman, a stomach pain patient, dies after being shifted to a covid ward; in another case, man spends 5 days in hospital unnecessarily

The horror around Covid just keeps getting worse. ‘Sorry, it was a mistake’, seems so inadequate when a life has been lost due to negligence. While extended delays in getting test results have become par for the course, these two incidents highlight the kind of danger Bengaluru is in; coronavirus now seems to come a distant second.

In the first case, a 43-year-old woman was admitted to a city hospital on July 2 after she complained of stomach pain. As per protocol, the hospital collected her swabs. Karan Kumar, the woman’s husband, says that he was told a second swab was collected and he was informed that his wife was covid positive. When he told the hospital about it, his wife was shifted to a covid ward within the same hospital. A week later, she passed away. On seeing her discharge summary, Kumar realised that the covid report in the file was not that of his wife but of a woman with a similar name. On being told this, the hospital told Kumar to come to the hospital and collect the right report, as the files had been mixed up.

Kumar is so devastated by the loss of his wife that he does not want to pursue the matter. “If I fight the system, will she come back?” he asks. The hospital refused to comment but a senior doctor who wished anonymity said, “The process of announcing covid test results should be streamlined. The moment a laboratory completes testing, a message should be sent both to the patient and to the BBMP. Reports can be sent by email to a patient. We don’t know why a patient doesn’t get to see a physical record of his test at all.”

Dr CN Manjunath, director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research said, “This is an unfortunate incident. A case of files getting exchanged happens when two patients have similar names. So it’s best to go by the Specimen Referral Form (SRF) number. Even if the result is told to you over the phone, a patient’s family must always ask for the report either from the lab or the hospital. Recently, the government decided to share the result with the patient after it is uploaded on to the ICMR portal.”


Five days in hospital

Dudmal Jain is lucky that he survived to tell the tale. On July 6, Jain, a resident of Chickpet, called Xcyton Laboratory for a covid swab test since he was running fever for a week. On July 7, Jain received a phone call from a BBMP data entry operator, that he had tested positive. Jain was admitted to a hospital in Kengeri on the same day. Five days later, he got a call from the laboratory saying his first test was inconclusive and that another swab needs to be collected.

When the family called up the laboratory, they learnt that Dudmal Jain had never tested positive and that the inconclusive test result was that of another patient.

Suneel Kumar, in-charge of test reports at Xcyton Laboratory, said one of the employees had called up Jain, instead of contacting another patient. “I have apologised to the Jain family and I’m looking into the matter,” said Kumar.

The BBMP staffer who called up Jain said her responsibility is to inform people who have tested positive based on the report sent by the testing laboratories.

Meanwhile, Dudmal Jain is healthy and does not have any covid symptoms. His family says they will get him tested again when he is discharged from the hospital.

Some other goof-ups

Case 1: A woman in Bengaluru received the Covid test result of a man from Greater Noida.
Case 2: A cancer patient from Kodagu was told she had tested negative and allowed to travel to Kerala. Two days later, her home was sealed because her results showed that she had tested positive.
Case 3: A covid-designated hospital in Bengaluru gave the body of man to his family. Only after the funeral did another family realise their father’s body had been cremated by someone else.

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