A total of 104 doctors have died due to COVID-19-related complications till July 13 across the country, a paper written by Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, president of the Indian Medical Association, Cochin, stated. Another four deaths of doctors — three of them in road accidents — were also linked to COVID-19, taking the total number to 108.
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Gujarat have the largest share of deaths — these States have the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the country. Most of the doctors who died were below 60 years of age and a majority of them were general practitioners.
Ten nurses too lost their lives during this period, with their average age being 49.6 years. A total of 15 deaths occurred among other healthcare workers.
“Of the 108 COVID-linked deaths (data till July 13) among doctors, there were four pandemic-related violent deaths, including three road accidents and a suicide. Of the 104 non-violent deaths, 55.5% were below 60 years of age, while 29.6% and 21% were below the age of 50 and 40, respectively. The average age at death was 56.3 (range 22-96). Over half of the deaths occurred among general practitioners, while surgical specialties accounted for 27% of the mortality,” Dr. Jayadevan’s paper stated.
Ravi Wankhedkar, past national president, Indian Medical Association (IMA), said that the paper was indicative of the trend and that the actual numbers of doctors who succumbed to COVID-19 could be higher.
“There is no official government mechanism to collect correct data for medical staff. IMA has one-third members from 11 lakh doctors registered with the Medical Council of India, and we also need to take into account Ayush, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic and Unani physicians, who are among frontline general practitioners to whom the patients with suspected symptoms may go first. They run small clinics in crowded areas with no safety measures. We suggest that the Government should officially maintain a separate registry of all healthcare givers who succumbed to COVID-19,” he said.
According to Dr. Jayadevan’s paper, it was not clear whether all infections were work-related but the most common reported source of contracting the infection was the workplace.
Co-morbidity, prolonged working hours, working without breaks, work-related stress, unexpected sudden deterioration, working without PPE (personal protective equipment), inadequate availability of PPE, inadequate testing facilities, shortage of hospital beds, and insufficient ICU (Intensive Care Unit)beds, were highlighted in a few of the reports where deaths have occurred among healthcare workers.
Simon Hercules, 55, a neurosurgeon at a private hospital in Chennai, was the first doctor to lose his life to COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu. It is suspected that Dr. Hercules contracted the virus from a patient he was treating.
On April 3, his daughter Shiny told a friend that her father, who had had fever for four days, did not look good, and that she would get him hospitalised. On April 4, Dr. Simon was admitted to Apollo Hospital and the test results returned positive for the coronavirus infection. Within a couple of days, he began to develop complications. He was put on ventilator and 10 days later, he died.
For Dr. Jayapriya, a gynaecologist at the Madurantakam Government Hospital on the outskirts of Chennai, it is all a blur. Her husband, Dr. Sukumaran, was the chief medical officer at the hospital. “He was working in the routine fever clinic and outpatient department and was infected [with COVID-19],” she said.
On June 19, the doctor’s infection was confirmed. He was admitted to a private hospital but soon his condition deteriorated and he was then shifted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai. Dr. Jayapriya said her husband underwent treatment for two weeks. He died on July 3, leaving behind two daughters, ages 20 and 14, respectively. The State government had started paperwork for compensation, she added.
In Surendranagar, Gujarat, Dr. Shailesh Champaneria (42) died due to COVID-19 infection on July 1. He contracted the virus while treating patients at his own hospital in Surendranagar.
“After he was found infected, he was taken to Rajkot for treatment and later shifted to Ahmedabad after his condition deteriorated,” a staff member from his hospital said. He breathed his last in Ahmedabad.
Dr. Azizuddin (43), a paediatrician at the Veerangana Avanti Bai Government Hospital for women and children in Lucknow, died of COVID-19 on July 15. He was admitted to the Lok Bandhu hospital here for treatment of a lung infection on June 27 but a day later his family shifted him to the reputed King George Medical University (KGMU) as the hospital did not have a proper machine to provide him with oxygen supply, said his family.
Dr. Azizuddin’s family, however, was not satisfied with the treatment at KGMU, too, as his condition continued to deteriorate. He was kept at KGMU for five to six days but continued to suffer problems in breathing, after which he was taken to the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, said Abdul Rehman, the deceased man’s brother-in-law. At SGPGI, doctors told his family that they had taken too long in bringing him to the hospital.
(With inputs from R. Sujatha in Chennai, Mahesh Langa in Ahmedabad and Omar Rashid in Lucknow.)