The Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, in Patna, has been designated by the Bihar government as the state’s primary hospital to treat cases of COVID-19. The government claims that the hospital’s isolation ward has 600 beds. On 23 March, the hospital’s association of junior doctors wrote a letter to the NMCH’s superintendent. Signed by a dozen doctors, the letter said that most of the junior residents working in the hospital’s out-patient department, emergency and isolation wards had come in contact with the coronavirus patients and were exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat. On consulting senior doctors, the letter added, “we have been advised to go for home quarantine for a period of 15 days.”
After receiving the letter, the NMCH superintendent wrote to the principal secretary of the state’s education department, asking for directions from the health department for quarantining 83 junior doctors who were showing symptoms. Although two days have passed, no concrete directions have arrived. Neither have samples been taken from the doctors for testing. The junior doctors continue to treat patients in the meantime.
The first COVID-19 cases in Bihar were reported on 22 March, when test results for two patients were found to be positive. One of them, 38-year-old Saif Ali from Munger district, had been admitted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, on 19 March. He died the night before his test result came back. The other patient, who was also admitted at AIIMS Patna, was a woman whose son had recently returned from Italy. The police have kept her son under quarantine. On 23 March, a third patient, Rahul Kumar, tested positive for COVID-19. Kumar had recently visited Scotland, which had already seen 499 cases, of whom 14 had died. He was admitted at NMCH, and the junior doctors seem to have contracted the coronavirus while treating him.