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'Cases of gross medical negligence resulting in deaths...' reveals the key finding of an expert committee that enquired into COVID-19 deaths during the second wave in Karnataka's Haveri district.
According to the damning report, which was filed on 25 June, several patient deaths in Haveri occurred in the night time, as medical staff was unavailable.
The report, a copy of which is now with The Quint, shows that lack of preparedness in Haveri contributed to COVID-19 deaths in the state. Haveri has recorded 139 of the 8,512 COVID deaths in Karnataka.
As per the report, "patients were not admitted to ICU and put on ventilators even though functional ventilators were available". The report also states that more deaths occurred at night due to "lack of monitoring".
Delayed Swab Collection, Improper Triaging
The committee led by District Health Officer of Haveri also found that in the initial phase of the second wave, between April and May, swabs of symptomatic patients were not collected on time. The report states that swabs were collected with a delay of five to six days in May 2021.
The triaging and shifting teams of government healthcare workers did not perform effectively, the report states. "Home isolation deaths occurred as patients were not shifted early" to district healthcare facilities, the report stated. According to sources, the report was brought to the attention of Karnataka's state level COVID task force this month.
Alarmingly, the report also reveals that blood tests of patients admitted in hospitals were not performed as per protocol.
"Oxygen audit was not done. Shortage of liquid oxygen was found in the month of May," the report reads.
Deaths were caused also because there was delayed reference of patients to centres that have better facilities, the report indicated. The district also had a shortage of operation theatre technicians, lab technicians, staff nurses and ICU technicians, the report stated.
Unused Ventilators, Delayed Admission, Doctors at Risk
The report has also found that even though ventilators were present in ICUs, patients were not given ventilator support because qualified technicians were unavailable.
As per the death verification report, it was also found that "oxygen flow in ventilators was not to the expected level".
"CT scan too was not done as per protocol," the report reads.
There was also a shortage of biochemical reagent for COVID patients, the report says, adding that hospitals were also not maintaining a COVID registry to record case details.
Even the lives of doctors and nurses were at risk as protocols were not followed. In May and June 2021, duty doctors were given 12-hour-long shifts, preventing them from wearing PPE kits at all times, the report says.
In Haveri, there are still 54 active COVID cases, even though the numbers have fallen to zero in Bengaluru, the most affected district in the state.
According to a district health officer of Haveri, "The state authorities were particular that we identify the base cause of deaths. The exercise was conducted to prevent shortfalls during the next wave".
Shockingly, even though the report was filed over two months ago, the Karnataka health department has not taken any action, the official conceded to The Quint.
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