A 46-year-old nurse, Ambika PK, who was working at Kalra Hospital in Kirti Nagar succumbed to COVID-19 at the Safdarjung Hospital on Sunday. She is the first nurse to have died due to the deadly virus in Delhi.
Her colleagues alleged that the hospital, which is not a designated facility to treat COVID-19 patients, asked nurses to reuse personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks, The Indian Express reported on May 26.
"While the doctors were given fresh PPE, the nurses were asked to reuse PPE," a nurse at Kalra Hospital said.
Last week, the Centre had announced that India has significantly ramped up its domestic production of PPEs and N-95 masks, and the requirements of the states and Union Territories were being sufficiently fulfilled.
Dr RN Kalra, owner of the hospital, denied all the allegations and claimed that adequate PPE and hand sanitisers were being provided to all employees.
"I have not received a single complaint from any staffer. If there is a single discrepancy, I will investigate and take strict action," he said.
"PPE, gloves and sanitisers are available in bulk," Nurses in-charge S Wilson and Anita Soni said, denying all allegations.
Another nurse at the Kalra Hospital claimed that many of them had decided not to go to work till adequate safety arrangements were made for them. "Today it's Ambika, tomorrow it can be me," she added.
She also claimed that discarded PPEs were being rotated among nurses for two months. "Some of us stopped wearing PPE," she added.
On her last day, Ambika engaged in an argument with the nursing in-charge about "not getting fresh PPE and masks", an unidentified senior nurse said.
Ambika was working till May 18 and was admitted to Safdarjung Hospital on May 21 after she complianed of difficulty in breathing.
"My mother's condition deteriorated so rapidly," Akhil, her son said. "I couldn't understand how to get here sooner. Over a week ago, she mentioned that the hospital was making her reuse PPE and charging money for masks. I got agitated and told her to just stay at home, but she didn't listen to me. She continued working, and now she is dead."
After the news of Ambika's demise surfaced, Anto Antony, MP from Kerala's Pathanamthitta district, where Ambika hailed from, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pointing to private hospitals not providing protective material to the staff.
He requested PM Modi to release of insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh to Ambika's family and demanded a compensation of Rs 1 crore from Kejriwal government.
"Her untimely death raises several questions regarding safety of the nurses working in hospitals," he wrote in his letter.
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