MORE THAN two months after he tested positive for Covid-19, Punjab Police DSP Harjinder Singh (49) died of post-Covid complications at Satguru Partap Singh (SPS) Hospital in Ludhiana, Wednesday.
A few days ago, the DSP — in a video made from his hospital bed which went viral on social media — had made a poignant appeal to the Punjab government to fund his lung transplant instead of giving compensation to his family after he would die. He had separated from his wife, and is survived by his mother and two sons.
Posted as DSP at Ludhiana Central Jail, the officer tested positive on March 30 and was admitted to SPS Hospital on April 6. Even though he tested negative for the virus on April 21, his lungs were severely damaged. According to the family, doctors had advised lung transplant as the only possibility as his chances of survival were bleak.
Hardeep Singh, the DSP’s cousin who stepped in as caretaker when the officer was in hospital, said his brother died because bureaucracy dragged its feet even after Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh announced that the state government would bear all expenses of the officer’s treatment.
“Even after CM tweeted and announced that government would bear entire cost of my brother’s treatment, the case was still transferred to a government expert committee headed by Dr K K Talwar. It was on June 2 that CM had made the announcement on Twitter, by when it was already very late. On May 10, the doctors at SPS Hospital had already communicated to us that his lungs were completely finished and we should plan for lung transplant. We had immediately informed senior police officials including Ludhiana police commissioner but no action was taken. Then we contacted some NGOs and even our relatives agreed to extend some monetary help and we were ready to take him to KIMS Hospital, Secunderabad (Telangana), for lung transplant but then on June 2, after CM’s announcement, those NGOs also backed out,” said Hardeep.
“Despite knowing that doctors at SPS Hospital had tried all options in two months but his lungs were not showing any improvement, the government expert committee kept delaying and discussing the case further, instead of shifting the patient for transplant. The estimated cost for transplant was Rs 70-80 lakh. But then the committee started guiding doctors at SPS to continue treatment here only…It is only because of the loopholes in this system that my brother has died. Everything was done on paper but not practically and despite CM’s assurance that money won’t be a problem, the patient was not taken for lung transplant,” he further said, adding that only after Harjinder’s mother visited the CMO had the government had finally acted.
Dr Gurpreet Singh, senior consultant and joint coordinator, department of pulmonary and critical care medicine at SPS Hospital, had issued the family a certificate on May 11, which said: “…The patient…got admitted with viral pneumonia Covid-19 positive with Type-1 respiratory failure on 06.04.2021. He was treated with IV antiviral (Remdesivir), anticoagulants, steroids…His CT chest done on 29.04.2021 still has confluent ground glass opacities in bilateral lungs. As now it is more than one month, patient is still on NRBM with desaturation on mild exertion, his family has been counseled about likely need of lung transplantation.”
“Ludhiana police commissioner had written a letter to ADGP (jails) on May 20 that Rs 80 lakh would be required for lung transplant, but nothing was done to expedite the case,” said Hardeep.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr K K Talwar, head of state’s Covid expert committee, said the DSP was suffering from several infections even after testing negative for Covid. “The expert committee was watching the case very closely and everything best was done. Doctors tried really hard but a patient has to be in that condition too for a complicated procedure such as lung transplant,” he added.
Dr Rajiv Kundra, medical superintendent, SPS Hospital, said the officer was being treated as per guidelines from the government’s expert committee. “His secondary infections were being treated. He was diabetic with cardiac issues too. It is difficult to say if he would have survived even after lung transplant. We were trying to reach a point where lung transplant might have been possible,” said Dr Kundra.
Punjab ADGP (jails) P K Sinha said that since the case was referred to Dr Talwar, doctors from Delhi, Telangana and abroad were also being consulted: “Harjinder had become PPS officer after several promotions. It is sad to lose a good officer but the best possible was done with CM himself involved in the case.”
Meanwhile, Dr Gurpreet Singh, who was handling the case at SPS Hospital, said to The Indian Express, “As of now there is no data to show how Covid patients behave after lung transplant and if they can survive after the surgery. Lung transplant is in itself a very complicated procedure. I had written about lung transplant in the certificate only on the family’s insistence as they wanted to go try. It wasn’t our suggestion considering the patient’s infection levels.”
Hospital waives bills
Dr Kundra said that the hospital has waived the late DSP’s medical bills, a “gesture for frontline workers”.
“The DSP’s brother said that bill was around Rs 15 lakh but police officials have assured them that even if the bill has to be paid, government will take care of it.”
Punjab Jails Minister Sukhjinder Sing Randhawa said: “Deeply saddened to learn that our brilliant officer, despite best medical efforts, lost the battle against post-Covid illness. The Punjab government stands by his family in their hour of grief and will do everything to support them.”
He further said that the the state government was ensuring “best and free medical treatment” to the late DSP, and top medical experts were monitoring his treatment round the clock in line with directions from the CM.
The DSP’s last rites will be held in Mohali on Thursday.
His file kept moving kept moving from one room to another: Majithia
SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia attacked the ruling Congress for ignoring pleas of financial assistance from the DSP’s family.
Speaking to the media in Khanna, Majithia said that the DSP’s death showed that Punjabis were left to fend for themselves, while Congress leaders were busy with their power struggle.
“Nothing is being done to help those in distress. In the case of DSP Harjinder Singh, his file kept moving from one room to another. The situation is such that the mortality rate is highest in the medical college in Patiala, the hometown of the CM. Similarly, there is not a single ventilator in the government sector in Mohali, the constituency of Health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu. It is due to this that we have lost more so many lives,” said Majithia.
The former minister said the alleged vaccine and Fateh kit scams showed “total insensitivity” of the Congress government.
“Nothing is sacred. They have even chosen to play with the lives of people by earning ill gotten money from vaccines and medicines meant for Covid patients,” he alleged.
“The SAD will not keep quiet. We will ‘gherao’ the chief minister’s residence in Chandigarh on June 15 and demand that Health Minister Balbir Sidhu be dismissed and a CBI probe ordered into both the vaccine and Fateh kit scams,” Majithia said. —WITH INPUTS FROM ENS, LUDHIANA