Infection spread from non-Covid section of Mumbai hospital: Wockhardt Chairman

Over 40 nurses who came in contact with a Covid-19 positive patient at South Mumbai’s Wockhardt hospital have been infected with the disease, forcing the municipal authorities to declare the hospital as an containment zone. Nurses association have alleged that the hospital did not take enough precautions while handling the infected patient, thereby putting the lives of the healthcare workers in the hospital at risk. In the cordoned off hospital, there are currently 60 patients who are inside nearly 300 staff working there.

Divya Rajagopal of ET spoke to Habil Khorakiwala, Chairman of the Wockhardt Group, to get the version of the hospital on how this happened. Excerpts of the interview

How did this infection spread? Did you not have separate isolation facilities?

Like all hospitals, even our hospitals are relatively in high risk situation. What happened was there was a cardiac patient sometime in middle of March, he was operated for the cardiac problem. He was in ICU and was Covid-19 positive, but it was only after 5-6 days of his recovery he showed some signs of the disease. So that’s when we got him immediately tested and isolated him. His results came positive. So we lost about 7-8 days not knowing that all our health workers, doctors were interacting with him and with others also. That was the fundamental cause of what happened. Once we discovered that we isolated the patient. We do have separate isolated wards, we informed BMC on a daily basis on what happened and happening. And some where along that line we mutually decided with BMC to lock our hospital and facility. And we got subsequently everyone tested.

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What about the patients and staff?

All the patients and hospital staff who were present they remain in the hospital, isolated. There are 60-70 patients all of them have been tested and they are negative patients as of now. So we know what is the extent of our problem, and everybody is in the hospital now. Everyone is completely isolated, each patient is kept in one single room.

The healthcare workers have said that they did not have enough PPEs, did you provide them with one?

Yes. It was adequate. They were following the protocol. There are two parts of the hospital, one that was earmarked for Covid-19 patients and they had complete protective gears. And there was the rest of the hospital which was admitting normal patients for treatments. So the infection happened from the non-Covid area.

Isn’t that worrying then, the infection took place in the non-Covid area of the hospital?

The patient had originally Covid-19 but he was asymptomatic for five-six days so we could not detect. He underwent procedure, he was in ICU and was being treated for that. The moment we saw some symptom we got him tested and we straight away isolated the patient without waiting for the test results to come out.

How many healthcare workers tested positive?

It is something around 40 or 46 tested positive, out of 300 staff that we have. So they are all under isolation. Those are positive, they are treated separately.

The BMC is saying that the hospital was careless and did not do enough to protect its staff and its patients…

So, as soon as we came to know that the patient is Covid-19 we isolated him. And before that we had no way to know it. So that is how it spread to our health workers.

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What is the condition of those tested positive?

Nobody is in serious condition, the original patient who was cardiac patient was 80 year old and he was serious and passed away in the hospital. After that there is one serious case. Some are asymptomatic.

How many beds did you have for the Covid-19 patients?

We have a separate area for Covid-19 patients, we have 10 bedded isolated facility for Covid-19 patients. So we had a segregated covid facility.

Nurses working with your hospital are saying the hospital is not sharing their medical reports…

That is not correct we are completely transparent. Every nurse, every doctor whoever tested positive or negative, that information is available to everyone of them.

Any lessons for you from here?

There is nothing we could have done differently or better. We are following a tight protocol in routine working. So there is no negligence per say. And we did take all precautions from the beginning, and this kind of accident can happen anywhere in the world. Our view is that.

BMC and us are following the same isolation concepts. All hospitals are dealing with serious cases. And the nurses and doctors are working in high risk conditions. The hospital are capable of professionally of taking adequate precautions for nurses. And therefore, hospitals are needed in a community like this. And tomorrow if other hospitals gets this kind of problem, who handles such cases we might have different kinds of problem. We have sanitized the hospital as we came to know, and one can take adequate precautions. But the hospital sooner or later has to start functioning.

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What about the nurses who have tested positive? Are you shifting them to other hospital?

We are requesting the BMC to transfer the nurses and patients who are Covid-19 positive, to one of the other hospitals. But they have not been able to find a proper solution for that.


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