In Muzaffarnagar’s Palari village, Sachin Saini, 33, morosely recounts the last days of his wife, Anjali. The couple, along with their two children, had returned to their rural home from Ghaziabad, where Sachin works as a polymer engineer, in early April.
Twelve days later, a video Sachin shot at the Muzaffarnagar Medical College and Hospital, UP, went viral. In it, a sobbing Sachin blames the hospital’s negligence for “killing” Anjali, who was six months pregnant.
“A dance of death is going on here,” he yells in the video. “They killed my wife. I got her admitted just today.”
Anjali, 30, succumbed to Covid on April 23. She had developed a cough two days earlier. Like most people in Uttar Pradesh in need of medical attention for Covid, a breathless Anjali was ferried from one hospital to another, but to no avail.
Then, Sachin got a bizarre message from the UP government: Anjali’s sample for an RT-PCR test had been collected on April 25, two days after her death. On April 30, the result came negative.
“I lost to the system,” Sachin said. “My children still search for their mother. What do I tell them?”
Anjali Saini’s coronavirus test report from April 30.
On April 21, Sachin had taken Anjali to private hospitals in Muzaffarnagar, who wouldn’t admit her without a test. He returned to a Primary Healthcare Centre near his village. She got an RT-PCR test as also a rapid antigen test, which returned a negative result. But a CT scan showed a developing pneumonia in her lungs, a known Covid complication.
The next day, Anjali was moved to the Muzaffarnagar Medical college, which referred her to the district hospital. On April 23, citing lack of ventilators, the district hospital shifted her back to the medical college.
“She was given oxygen at the medical college by the ward boy, not a doctor,” said Sachin, recounting Anjali’s first stint in the government facility. “The place wasn’t sanitised, and she was asked to move around a lot by the staff. They said that since she had tested negative at the PHC, she should be moved to the district hospital, which would decide on her treatment. I took her there in a private ambulance.”
At the district hospital, Anjali tested positive in her second antigen test in 24 hours.
In the early morning of April 23, the hospital staff alerted Sachin that his wife’s condition was worsening. She needed a ventilator, which they did not have. With her oxygen level hovering over 60, she was sent back to the medical college.
To add to Sachin’s despairing confusion, her RT-PCR result from the PHC had come. It was negative.
“Two hours after her admission in the medical college, she was still not put on a ventilator,” he complained. “In fact, I didn’t see a single doctor go up to her. The entire place was empty.”
In an afternoon call, the medical college informed Sachin that the child Anjali was carrying had died. An inconsolable Sachin moved once again to shift her to a private hospital, but while he was pulling strings to get the from the chief medical officer, Anjali too succumbed.
Sachin is left with many unanswered questions. “If my wife got the required treatment, the hospital should tell me the tests she went through and the names of the doctors who treated her,” he said. “And why did she not get ventilators anywhere?”
In a statement, the medical college that Anjali was “treated on priority”.
“As per the guidelines of the UP government pregnant women need to be treated on priority, so she was immediately admitted to the Covid ward,” said Dr Brigadier GS Manchanda, the principal. “She was symptomatic with a cough, sore throat and breathing problems. Her oxygen level was 50 percent. She was admitted to the ICU, but unfortunately could not survive.”
And yet, Selva Kumari, the district magistrate, to investigate Anjali’s death. Ten days on, Sachin hadn’t heard from them. “They don’t pick my calls,” he said. “The system is too big. I cannot fight it.”
Newslaundry couldn't speak with the district magistrate on the phone. We sent her a set of questions. The story will be updated if we get a response.