VIMSAR ‘Medical Negligence’ Probe Can Open Pandora’s COVID Box In Odisha!

Cuttack: The Orissa High Court ordering a probe into the alleged negligence or lack of timely treatment to COVID patients at VIMSAR, Burla, during the second wave of the pandemic has again reopened debate over COVID management in Odisha.

A retired judicial officer of the rank of district judge would probe the veracity of these allegations, which Bargarh-based Gyanadutta Chouhan brought to the HC’s notice.

While ordering the judicial probe on Wednesday, a two-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Savitri Ratho, posted the next hearing on the matter along with the inquiry report to November 15.

Chouhan alleged that most of the patients at VIMSAR died due to non-availability of ICU beds and acute shortage of oxygen. This is contrary to the Odisha government’s claim that it had been able to effectively manage the second wave and there was no dearth of beds or oxygen in the state. On July 7, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) PK Mohapatra said the bed occupancy had come down to 10 per cent from 95 per cent. He claimed oxygen management was very successful and there was no report of oxygen crisis from any part of the state.

In pursuance of an earlier HC order, the Health and Family Welfare Department has set up a three-member committee of senior medical professionals to inquire into these allegations and it submitted its report on May 26.

Chouhan, however, filed a counter to the findings of the committee.

On June 8, the HC asked him to place on record affidavits of at least five persons who were patients or whose close relatives or friends were victims of either medical negligence or lack of timely medical treatment at VIMSAR during the relevant period of the second resurgence of the deadly coronavirus.

Following this, Chouhan submitted affidavits of five persons to substantiate his allegations.

COVID in-charge of VIMSAR Dr Sudarshan Pothal said the hospital authorities had not yet received any information about the High Court directive.

Maintaining that there have been no irregularities in the treatment of the COVID patients, he said the VIMSAR authorities will fully cooperate in the judicial probe and provide the data.

The fresh probe could trigger new allegations about patient care and also deaths from other parts of Odisha, creating the possibility of bringing the state government’s versions under the microscope.

Notably, the government had earlier denied any possibility of undercounting of COVID-19 deaths after the High Court asked it to submit the district wise death count by July 5.

There have been allegations of fudging the COVID death figures in the past, but Chouhan was perhaps the first to file a plaint on medical negligence in the treatment of the affected patients.

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