Shillong, May 31: Ganesh Das Hospital on Monday clarified that there was no leave application from nurse Manisha Turnia, who succumbed to Covid-19 on Sunday night. She was in the later stage of second trimester of pregnancy.
Turnia (33), who was a resident of Umpling-Lumdiengmet, was tested positive on May 25.
Dr M Bareh, medical superintendent at Ganesh Das Hospital, said there was no leave application from Turnia. “We don’t deny leave to anyone and especially when there is a valid reason. But we had not received any application from her. Also, she was not on Covid duty. No pregnant staff are given Covid duty,” she told Meghalaya Monitor.
A social media post by a family friend said, “She was 6 and half months pregnant. Three weeks before she died, she was unwell and applied for medical leave. However, the in-charge rejected her leave stating that all health workers are not allowed to take leave as directed by Health Department. Just a day after she completed her night duty she got real sick and couldn’t breathe properly. She was admitted in ICU at Ganesh Das Hospital. After being tested Covid positive on 25th May, she was shifted to isolation ward. Since then, her condition deteriorates. Her oxygen level keeps going down. Yesterday she expired.”
She was admitted in the hospital on May 23. Turnia has a six-year-old son. “If the government had given exemption order, then why won’t we exempt them,” Bareh said and added that strict healthcare protocols, including use of double masks and PPEs, are maintained in the hospital.
A senior health official said there was one notification from Personnel Department last month and also one from Health Department last year, advising pregnant women to stay at or work from home.
Bareh said she has already submitted a detailed report to the director of health services.
A post by Turnia’s sister said, “Dear friends, regarding the recent post that had gone viral, i apologise to all concerned individuals whose sentiments had been hurt, my friend meant no harm nor does he had ill intentions, it was a misunderstanding regarding a personal conversation we had, as we grief the loss of my sister, please respect our privacy and once again i apologise on the behalf of my friend and I. Thanking you all. Manisha Turnia’s younger sister.”
Kenneth Swer, a healthcare worker and secretary of the Workers Power of Meghalaya, said, “Are hospitals mindful of their workers’ rights or are they making them work overtime? There were issues about less manpower at health centres, including hospitals, and it has exacerbated now with the pandemic. Are the ones on Covid duty have access to adequate free quarantine facilities and protective gear? Is there any transport for them to travel to duty and back? Was that notification regarding work from home for disabled and pregnant women only for office goers and not healthcare workers? If so, the government needs to revise it.”
Activist Angela Rangad said all hospitals should ensure safety of healthcare workers by making available safety gear, “which are anyway billed to the patients”.
“Community-level healthcare workers should also be given adequate protective gear and the government needs to ensure this. Citizens can also contribute towards this. Healthcare workers are already on the frontline for us, they should also not be made to bear the financial burden of the pandemic where they need to pay for post-Covid quarantine and exorbitant transport, especially owing to the lockdown. Employers should guarantee them these two rights,” she added.
The Trained Nurses’ Association of India wrote to the bereaved family offering condolences. “We deeply mourn and share your grief at this time of great sadness and pray that God will comfort all the members of the family,” the association said in its statement.
Demand for inquiry
The Hynñiewtrep Integrated Territorial Organization has demanded thorough inquiry into the “chronology of events” that led to Turnia’s death and punish the guilty. It also condemned the “lackadaisical attitude of the deceased’s superiors who seemed oblivious for reasons best known to them of the victim’s plight”.
In a letter to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, the organisation said, “May we remind your good self that your government on May 17, 2021 had in very simple language made it abundantly clear through an official notification that pregnant women are exempted from duty during the lockdown period. Besides there is also a standing directive from the Union ministry of health & family welfare in effect since last year. But yet this exemption did not apply or was not applied to by the authorities in the poor nurse’s justified case. WHY?”
The organisation also demanded adequate compensation to the next of kin of the victim.
Bareh also confirmed that a pregnant woman, who was admitted with symptoms of Covid-19, died last Thursday. She was into 20 weeks of pregnancy and “this is a very sensitive time”, she said and added that there was no shortage of oxygen in the hospital.