In a Letter to Chief Minister JSA Rajasthan demanded for a fair investigation into the case of alleged suicide by a COVID-19 patient under treatment at RUHS hospital (Rajasthan University of Health Sciences), Jaipur as reported in today’s Rajasthan Patrika

This is a serious case wherein a COVID-19 infected person from Jaipur allegedly committed suicide because he was distressed for not being provided any care at RUHS Hospital where he was admitted for treatment and this pushed him into intense mental stress regarding his health.

The state of mind that he was in is clearly evident from a self-recorded video found in his phone (which is also circulating online) in which he expresses his agony and also mentions of suicide. This raises serious questions on the quality of care being provided by this particular hospital to COVID-19 patients. When we talk of quality of services, we do not only talk about the hospital management and infrastructure but also other crucial aspects such as the behavior and sensitivity of the service providers and other hospital staff  towards the patients.

From the details given in the news as reported by Rajasthan Patrika, it is primarily evident that this patient, who was extremely worried about his health, was not provided any kind of mental or emotional support by the hospital due to which his condition deteriorated  and he was forced to take suicidal steps. What is even more worrying is that the hospital did not inform his family of his death for two days, and refused to return his belongings to the family members until they were repeatedly asked to. This is an outright violation of the rights of the patient and his family which needs to be thoroughly investigated further. 

We therefore demand the following :

1. A committee be constituted immediately for a fair investigation into the matter which should submit its report to the government within five days of its constitution. The committee should consist of a senior doctor (who has no linkages with the RUHS or its associated hospitals), a health department official,  a state human rights commission representative, a psychiatrist, and a representative from a civil society organisation working on health rights as its members. The committee should be conducting a detailed social and clinical audit of the death. Firm action should be taken by the govt. against those found guilty of abeting the suicide.
2. Until the matter is fully investigated, the chief in-charge of RUHS hospital should be suspended with immediate effect.
3. The hospital did not inform the deceased’s family about his death for two days and refused to hand over his belongings to the family initially. This amounts to serious violation of patients’ rights. This must be investigated further and strict action must be taken against the officers found guilty.

4. Taking responsibility for the death of Sh. Navratan Mahawar and taking into consideration the extreme stress and mental trauma that he and his family had to go through, the government should provide a compensation of Rs. 50,00,000/ – (fifty lakh rupees) to the deceased’s family immediately.

5. There are enough evidences that a pandemic can cause severe mental stress to the patients. In such a situation, along with treatment for the physical illness, the patients are as much in need of mental and emotional support and care. The government should therefore ensure that every COVID-19 dedicated hospital has a psychiatrist or a mental health team readily available who can regularly interact with the patients over the phone or if necessary meet them personally and provide appropriate psychological help or treatment. The patients should also have access to their phone numbers so that they can reach out to the expert whenever they may need to. 

6.  A system should be developed by the government to collect regular feedback from COVID-19 patients (and their families) during the course of their treatment. For this, the government can create a simple mobile application or an online form. It should although be taken care of that the names of the patients providing feedback remains confidential.