LAHORE: A Covid-19 patient’s death in the emergency ward of the Nishtar Hospital, Multan, on March 24 blatantly exposed several on-duty doctors, nurses, paramedics and other patients to the virus, showing another incident of mishandling of a confirmed case.

The health authorities said the deceased, Muhammad Amir of Dera Ismail Khan, was notified neither as a suspected case nor as a confirmed patient of coronavirus.

Nishtar Medical University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mustafa Kamal Pasha confirmed that Amir was a patient of coronavirus, saying he had issued directions to quarantine all the on-duty doctors, nurses and paramedics who had attended Amir after he landed in emergency unit on March 24.

However, the inordinate delay in taking action to protect lives of the on-duty staff by the institute’s management has invited strong criticism.

An official privy to the information told Dawn the patient had an international travel history and was brought to the hospital on March 24, following some symptoms of coronavirus. He and his family had concealed the history from the doctors when asked about his international travel.

Probe into Mayo death; 43 new cases take Punjab’s tally to 448; Lahore has 105 patients

Relying upon his statement, the doctors admitted Amir to the emergency ward instead of sending him to the quarantine as suspected patient of coronavirus. He died the same day during treatment and the doctors handed over his body to the family as per normal procedure.

The official said as the patient was later tested positive in reports, there were chances of spread of the virus to the duty doctors and nurses who attended him, the staff who removed and cleaned bed sheets and touched his body while handing him over to his family. Similarly, the attendants who received his body and transported it to Dera Ismail Khan and the relatives who remained in contact with him besides those who performed his last rituals, all were exposed badly to the virus.

The official lamented that the patient also remained in contact with many his friends and relatives since his arrival from abroad.

“We are going to quarantine duty doctors and other staff immediately,” the VC of the Nishtar Medical University told Dawn.

He justified the inordinate delay (in quarantining the staff), saying it was a public sector mega teaching hospital and several patients used to roam around the duty medics and no one could know who was confirmed patient of coronavirus.

So chances of contracting the virus improved greater in such environment, Mr Pasha said, adding that despite prevailing situation he had ordered to isolate the duty staff who remained in contact with the Covid-19 patient who died on March 24.

To a question, he said, someone had told him that the district government of DI Khan had also quarantined the entire family of the deceased besides others who remained in contact with him.

The death of another coronavirus patient at the Nishtar Hospital Multan sparked a controversy when the health authorities disowned him as confirmed or suspected patient of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government constituted a five-member committee to probe the death of 70-year-old coronavirus confirmed patient at the Mayo Hospital Lahore on Friday.

The elderly man, Muhammad Hanif, was found dead in the washroom of the quarantine facility established at the Mayo Hospital Lahore.

He was tied to the bed and a video leaked by other confirmed patients of the same ward drew attention of the health authorities, which immediately ordered investigation into the matter.

According to initial reports, the elderly patient was sent to the quarantine facility after he was tested positive for coronavirus.

During his stay, he was crying for his treatment at home. A day before his death, he had left the ward and the security staff brought him back to the quarantine centre when he tried to leave the hospital.

The duty staff later tied him with bad declaring him a risk for other healthy people being a confirmed patient of coronavirus.

However, his death in a very hostile environment prompted health authorities to launch investigations.

The commitee shall be headed by chairman of Corona Expert Advisory Group Prof Dr Mahmood Shaukat. The committee was directed to submit its report within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Mayo Hospital Chief Executive Officer Prof Dr Asad Aslam also formed another commitee comprising senior medics of the institute to launch a probe.

The commitee was headed by Prof Dr Bilquis Shabbir who will present her report to chief executive of the hospital within 24 hours or so.

NEW CASES: Forty-three new patients tested positive for the coronavirus in Punjab, including two in Lahore, during the last 24 hours.

Of them, 27 new cases were reported from Multan while two districts, including Nankana Sahib and Khushab, were also included in the club of the cities reporting confirmed patients of the virus.

In Nankana Sahib, two patients tested positive for the virus while one in Khushab. Faisalabad also reported two new confirmed cases during the last 24 hours.

According to the official figures, the total number of confirmed patients has reached 448 in Punjab, including 105 in Lahore, 207 in DG Khan, 46 in Multan, 22 in Gujrat, 19 in Jhelum and 14 in Rawalpindi.

The spokesperson for the Punjab health department said four deaths by coronavirus had been reported so far in the province. Of them, three occurred in Lahore and one in Rawalpindi.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2020