Delhi is mourning the death of Ambika PK who became the first nursing staff in the capital to lose her life to COVID-19. The 46-year-old had been admitted on 21 May due to difficulty in breathing. Ambika's colleagues have alleged that nurses are being asked to reuse PPE including masks and gloves, while doctors are given fresh ones.
A nurse for 12 years
Nurses across hospitals in Delhi-NCR observed a minute silence for Ambika who was a nurse at Kalra Hospital and died at Safdarjung hospital on Sunday, May 24. “ Ambika PK had tested positive for the virus,” a doctor at Safdarjung hospital told The Indian Express, adding that after being a suspected of being coronavirus positive, she was shifted to the COVID-19 ICU and was on a ventilator for life support.
Ambika had been working at the hospital for 12 years and is survived by her husband and her two children. Ambika’s son told The Indian Express, “My mother’s condition deteriorated so rapidly. 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.”
Ambika had been working at the hospital for 12 years and is survived by her husband and her two children.
Nurses allege they are being asked to reuse PPE
The nurses also expressed their concerns, about used PPE kits being rotated. “While the doctors were given fresh PPE, the nurses were asked to reuse PPE. If we raised objections, we were told that since this is not a designated COVID-19 hospital, we are at little risk, and can reuse PPE,” a senior nurse at the Kalra Hospital said. One of the colleagues who was close to Ambika also pointed out that at the hospital, about a week ago, Ambika had an argument with an official regarding “not getting fresh PPE and masks”.
Dr. R N Kalra, the owner of the said hospital has however denied the allegations and said that sufficient PPE and hand sanitizers are being distributed to the 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 told the Indian Express.
A letter to the PM
Anto Antony who is an MP, from Kerala’s Pathanamthitta, from where Ambika hailed, has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, requesting the government to provide an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh and a compensation of Rs 1 crore to Ambika’s family. He also wrote that “her untimely death raises several questions regarding the safety of the nurses working in hospitals”.
While the doctors were given fresh PPE, the nurses were asked to reuse PPE. If we raised objections, we were told that since this is not a designated COVID-19 hospital, we are at little risk, and can reuse PPE.
Frontline health care workers are putting their lives at risk to do their duty. Why is the country failing them by not providing proper PPE that they so rightly deserve? How many Ambikas must lose this unfair battle, that they are sent to fight without the barrier of proper protective gear, for us to not just finally address this pressing shortage of PPE kits, but actually take concrete measures to fill the gap?
Shreya is an intern with SheThePeople.TV