Govt Tortures Whistleblower Covid Doctor in India

Dr Sudhakar Rao dragged on the road. Photo: Screengrab from Twitter video.
Dr Sudhakar Rao dragged on the road. Photo: Screengrab from Twitter video.

Shortages of protective health gear in India are forcing some doctors to use raincoats and motorbike helmets while fighting the coronavirus.

By Rakesh Raman

A doctor in Visakhapatnam – who had exposed the Andhra Pradesh government’s refusal to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and N-95 masks to handle coronavirus (Covid-19) patients – is allegedly being harassed by the state government.

According to a BBC report of today (May 21), Dr Sudhakar Rao who was suspended after raising concerns about a shortage of protective gear has been sent to a mental hospital by the state officials while his family claims that he is perfectly alright.

Reports also claim with video evidence that the whistleblower doctor was tied and beaten up by the city police and dragged on the road after alleging that he abused the state government.

In April, according to Hindustan Times, the doctor was suspended from the Narsipatnam government hospital in Andhra Pradesh when he revealed that PPE kits and N-95 masks were not being provided to the doctors. Earlier, Dr Rao had said that doctors were asked to use one mask for 15 days.

While the Central as well as State governments in India have been imposing lockdowns arbitrarily, they never tried to improve the healthcare system in the country to handle the increasing number of Covid patients.

The doctors who are supposed to treat coronavirus patients in India are not being provided the proper protective gear by the government. As a result, they are at a greater risk of catching the virus.

In order to overcome the fateful situation, some Indian doctors have started wearing raincoats and helmets while handling the patients.

According to Reuters, shortages of protective health gear in India are forcing some doctors to use raincoats and motorbike helmets while fighting the coronavirus, exposing the weak state of the public health system ahead of an anticipated surge in Covid cases.

Actually, the doctors and healthcare workers need PPE to save themselves from the virus. According to WHO, the PPE includes gloves, medical masks, goggles or a face shield, and gowns, as well as for specific procedures, respirators (i.e., N95 or FFP2 standard or equivalent) and aprons.

It is highly risky for the doctors to go near the coronavirus patients without PPE. But the Indian government of PM Narendra Modi has completely ignored the health concerns of doctors.

Instead of providing the test and treatment facilities in hospitals, Modi – who is an uneducated religious demagogue – is asking people to hit their kitchen utensils to encourage the doctors who should keep working in high-risk hospitals to handle the coronavirus patients.

India spends only about 1.3% of its GDP on public health, which is among the lowest in the world. A new report compiled by a study group of scientists cites World Bank data to reveal that the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people in India is only 0.7 (or 70 beds for 100,000 patients), compared to 6.5 in France, 11.5 in South Korea, 4.2 in China, 3.4 in Italy, and 2.8 in the U.S. Moreover, India does not have sufficient intensive care unit (ICU) beds for critical coronavirus patients.

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The scientists say that because of poor healthcare facilities in India, the local hospitals will not be able to handle the increasing number of coronavirus cases. Therefore, the thoughtless lockdowns announced by PM Modi without any plan to kill the virus will exacerbate the already alarming situation.

The scientists warn in their report that despite the 2-month-long lockdown and curfew, India may have up to 13 lakh (1.3 million) cases of Covid-19 by May 2020. Now, it appears that it will not be possible to stop the contagion and the lockdown exercise has gone futile. India – which has already become the global epicenter of coronavirus infection – is posing a serious risk to the entire world.

Even during this pandemic, Modi is delivering some useless speeches to people instead of strengthening the healthcare system in the country.

The Reuters report adds that several junior doctors have refused to treat patients without adequate safety equipment. They have also established an informal Covid-19 fund, to which each doctor contributed 1,000 rupees ($13.27) to buy masks and other face coverings.

It is estimated that at present India has nearly one million coronavirus cases and thousands have already died in the past few weeks in the country of 1.4 billion people.

While the Indian government is not telling the truth about the coronavirus situation, health experts suggest that the number of cases in India will be 300 million in the next few months.

Since the Indian government is not conducting tests on infected persons, it is not possible to count the number of patients. Similarly, because of the crumbling healthcare infrastructure in India, the authorities are not able to find the cause of deaths.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications and research reports on different subjects. These publications include the “Covid Health Bulletin” that covers global coronavirus news and views.

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