On 7 April, Preeti Pandey, the wife of an Indian Administrative Services officer Rajkumar Pandey, released a video that went viral across Madhya Pradesh, and Bhopal in particular. In it, Preeti, looking grim and visibly anxious, methodically explained how her husband, who worked for the National Health Mission, contracted the COVID-19 virus in one of the meetings he had with his colleagues. The cruel irony of Rajkumar’s case is that the government officials had convened the meeting to prepare a strategy to combat the pandemic. Rajkumar is one of several NHM workers from Madhya Pradesh to contract the virus, compounding an ongoing crisis in the state where almost the entire health department has either tested positive for COVID-19 or been placed under quarantine.
“He got himself tested, and it came back positive, following which he was admitted at AIIMS hospital, Bhopal,” Preeti said in the video. “He’s been admitted for two days, but no doctor has seen him yet. In the name of isolation, he has only been given two medicines—cetirizine and paracetamol.” Pausing only to hold back tears , she added, “They are not following any government protocol. The food is also terrible. After getting frustrated for two days, he himself requested to be shifted to Chirayu Hospital.” The Chirayu Hospital, which is also a medical college, is a premier private medical institutions in Bhopal.
The day the video was circulated, the public-relations officer of AIIMS, Bhopal released a statement denying the allegations raised by Preeti, noting that the hospital was “treating all patients as per protocol with an untiring devotion” and that Rajkumar was attended to “on regular basis.” The PRO claimed that the video was “propaganda” and said it could adversely affect the morale of the state’s health workers. Yet, the next day, the state’s health commissioner, Faiz Ahmed Kidwai, wrote to the director of AIIMS, Bhopal, stating that 11 NHM workers, who were admitted in the hospital with COVID-19, would be transferred to the Chirayu Hospital. The workers are the latest among numerous health officials from Madhya Pradesh to test positive for the virus.