The Silence of the Lambs: Sion Hospital’s Cry in the Wilderness
The thought of Sion Hospital brings back nostalgic memories! It has been a home away from home for all of us as medical students. We join at the young age of seventeen or eighteen. It takes five and a half years to acquire the basic undergraduate MBBS degree. Then, we spend three years doing post-graduation and a few more months or years for experience. So, one is at least 27 or 28 years old by the time our medical education is completed. The 10 to 12 years equal a whole school-life time, hence it is appropriately called the medical school!
 
The innocent teenager who enters medical school is chiselled, honed, hammered and battered during the decade and emerges with rich experience of life, living, sickness, health…and even death. Young minds cocooned in the care and shelter of their secure upbringing, are suddenly exposed to the harsh realities of life and death.
 
Sion Hospital is among those that bears the brunt of this trauma, being the first major tertiary care centre as you enter Mumbai. Since it is nearest to Dharavi, one of the five largest slums of the world, it was always crowded – even 40 years ago! The campus was always teeming with patients, their relatives and health personnel busily rushing around the place. Demand always out-stripped supply. 
 
Since our childhood, (we are in our sixties now) we have had four major hospitals viz. the King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM), the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital (LTMGH, better known as Sion Hospital), the Topiwala National Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai (better known as Nair Hospital) and Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy Group of Hospitals (better known as the JJ hospital at Byculla).
 
 
With a five-fold population increase in the past 50 years, we ought to have had at least 20 such hospitals for the general public. But we still have only these four. One can only imagine the stress and workload that they bear, further compounded by the lack of space.   
 
Yet, Sion Hospital has risen to every challenge. Whether it is a major railway accident when dozens of patients are wheeled in, or the series of bomb blasts that we lived through for nearly two decades after 1992 or victims of road accidents and other disasters -- all admitted and managed efficiently by the dedicated doctors. 
 
Although medical advances, modern technology, expert medical skills and state-of-the-art facilities are welcome upgrades, the sheer population explosion has made the demands on the hospital supersede its capacity drastically. 
 
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sion Hospital has always been overcrowded, so much so that it was not unusual to have as many as four babies per cradle in the neonatal intensive care; the orthopaedic ward is usually so overflowing with patients that the corridors are converted into ward extensions, and there is even a floor bed between two cots.  The casualty is invariably bursting at the seams with patients waiting for a ventilator. That is the reality of public health care, which never came to the attention of the urban middle class, unless caught in an unusual situation. COVID-19 has changed all that.
 
 
 Young doctors in their early twenties have to deal with this day in and day out. They have to work with what they have, and cannot change the situation. We know who is responsible for improving the healthcare system, but who will tell them?  If the poor patient has no voice, neither do the doctors. These patients cannot afford private healthcare and most consider it a boon to get a bed and two free meals a day. They are not the ones who usually complain. They are relieved at being admitted.
 
My husband (also a doctor in the same institute) often used to give money to poor patients for food and medicines. We knew about this. What we did not know is that he also used to donate blood to patients who had no relative to do so. My sister, who volunteers for Cancer care arranges food, toys, and medicines at Tata Cancer hospital, especially in the paediatric ward.
 
Children on their death bed can melt the stoniest of hearts! She counsels the parents. She asked one such mother, “Do you have any complaint? Does your child need anything?” to which she promptly replied, “I am not worried about this child. He lies on a bed, gets free food and even toys! I am anxious of my other children at home. Who will feed them?”  
 
Doctors are dealing with this poverty and helplessness in their own way every day. 
 
So in the middle of a global pandemic, when a viral video, which was probably politically motivated, leads to a public backlash against doctors, actively fomented by a part of the media, it is utterly demoralizing to those who are described at ‘corona warriors’. 
 
The pandemic is wreaking havoc by increasing the pressure on an already overstretched system. The number of beds has been further increased. A Fever OPD and a Smart COVID OPD have been installed (the latter to offer a degree of protection through contactless processes). Around 200 to 250 new patients are screened here for fever and associated symptoms. The number of admissions has skyrocketed, with the result that two patients are sometimes put on one cot and there are many more waiting for admission! What can doctors do about this? Incidentally, two patients on a cot during emergencies is not new – it has been going on for decades.
 
What can doctors do about this, except to continue working round the clock to treat patients? Sion Hospital is not a COVID-19 centre, but has both COVID and non-COVID patients. The surgery department has operated 24 COVID positive emergency patients and conducted 98 COVID positive deliveries. Over 40 COVID positive babies have been treated, over 793 COVID positive medical patients and 210 patients with severe acute respiratory infections have been managed. 
 
 
The brunt of this is borne by many doctors who turned COVID positive. Doctors from all departments have been put on COVID duty. They have to manage patients at Kasturba and Seven Hills hospitals too.  Each time a doctor tests positive, they have to be quarantined along with other support staff. This reduces the number of people available for work but has also been causing a lot of trauma among young minds, who are also dealing with calls from worried parents.
 
In some departments, all residents and staff members have been absent due to sickness or quarantine, leaving the head of the department to manage the whole department. Such overwork and such trying times are completely unprecedented. In addition to this, these young doctors are deputed to go to a cramped Dharavi, which has been a COVID cauldron, knock on doors and take their throat swabs! This sometimes raises safety concerns.
 
Very little of these heroic efforts are known to the general public. Instead, a motivated video led to so much of backlash and abuse that it hit the morale of almost everybody working at the hospital. The hasty action against the dean, was a further blow. The doctors looked up to their dean, who was approachable, sensitive, knowledgeable and co-operative and doing his very best in a crumbling health system. 
 
Yes, COVID continued to spread and patients died, but that was not at his door. There were other problems too – the lack of body bags, paucity of employees to shift bodies to the morgue, extra procedures that were mandated due to COVID and finally the fact that relatives unable to collect their dead because of lack of transport or they themselves were quarantined!  How was the dean to blame for that? Yet, he was unceremoniously discharged and made a sacrificial lamb! 
 
How has the action solved any problem? Sion Hospital has welcomed the new dean. He too will do his best, when he works in the same situation, he too has the sword of demotion /transfer and public humiliation dangling over his head.  Naturally, everyone is on tenterhooks and doctors are demoralized. Is this how the system wants to reward those who are sticking out their necks in trying circumstances? 
 
 
The lack of medical protective equipment is another huge issue. Thankfully corporates, NGOs and many donors have come forward to help. The doctor is helpless. The budgets for health and education in our country is meagre. We have no idea when our public healthcare system will ever improve. 
 
But doctors and healthcare workers are not responsible for any of this. They are mute workers carrying on their duty to the best of their ability and putting their lives at risk everyday – and that too without pay. Yes, resident doctors have not received their salary for a month and a half even while the government has been showering flowers and praise on them. 
 
Many have not seen their families since the lockdown and cannot go home. They are mostly young doctors in their 20s dealing with an unprecedented situation. They are the sacrificial lambs! Their silence speaks volumes – but does anybody want to lend an ear?
 
This is the Silence of the Lambs!
 
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    COMMENTS

    marydsouza312

    6 days ago

    Please provide food for covid patients as there members are quarantine and cannot visit them

    pujarissunil

    1 week ago

    We should prioritise the improvements of the existing Hospitals infrastructure and services , and setting up of new hospitals in order to take off the load from the existing hospitals.
    Health sector needs more serious reforms and funding to improve the infrastructure and services of the hospitals. Hope both the central and state Govt is listening.

    suneel

    1 week ago

    Thanks for bringing it to out attention. These are unsung warriors.

    shetyerb

    1 week ago

    We who are familiar with the Good Treatment we get at Sion or KEM Hospital inspite of their limitations will always be grateful to the staff of the Government hospitals' very good and HUMANE attention to the patients in spite of their limitations.
    It is the media, which mostly consists of the left over incompetent people , who is incapable of appreciating the Hospital Staff excellent service in spite of the limitations in the Govt hospitals under the Babus. And Media only wants to create sensation before another Channel comes in.
    And then another more senior, not necessarily more intelligent or competent, Babu comes in and thinks that a change in the Head of the Hospital will make all the Change.
    It is high time that our BABUs are trained to be making more INTELLIGENT decisions than just sacking someone and expecting the results.
    Incidentally my Father was a very successful IAS officer because he would go to the root causes of the problems/inefficiencies than just taking an off the Cuff decision and expect the miracles to happen.
    I will be very keen to learn the REASONING behind the removal of the Dean and appointing the new Dean, especially this particular one, who is now in charge.

    pravmara

    1 week ago

    Well written article and many of us who are hardcore Mumbaikars are aware of this reality. Thos who are new to Mumbai or 8gnorant will find it shocking. Yes this is the truth.
    Only Solution is to increase number 9f such hospitals. Munciple Corporation of Greater Mumbai is rich enough to do this if decides ( without corruption) What stopping them?
    There is No need to lecture on why statues and why not hospitals? etc. etc. and politicizing the matter ( I am not saying issue).

    homaielavia

    1 week ago

    This has opened our eyes to the sorry state of our medical system. New hospitals are the need of the hour. Not statues and temples. Land in Mumbai allotted to political parties for building fancy memorials to their leaders should be immediately requisitioned and COVID-19 Speciality Hospitals built. Even if such hospitals are just temporary warehouse type sheds. Example is the Indu Mills Complex at Shivaji Park. The adjoining Mayor's old bungalow can be used to house the doctors and nurses or become an isolation facility. There must be many such old mill/factory areas or other abandoned constructions under litigation which can be requisitioned.

    REPLY

    RJ

    In Reply to homaielavia 1 week ago

    Spot on. I entirely agree.

    Silence of the lambs, now that it is broken, arouses overflowing and much-deserved sympathy. But the absence of vision, criminal negligence, self-centeredness and sheer incompetence of the political leadership, to which it points, fills one with disgust and flaming anger.

    desouza

    1 week ago

    Thank you for such a soul-stirring issue. Shame on those who fail to understand, empathise and support these gallant warriors, instead of humiliating and disposing of them.

    REPLY

    bhatiahv

    In Reply to desouza 1 week ago

    Agree.

    RJ

    In Reply to desouza 1 week ago

    Ditto.

    glnprasad52

    1 week ago

    Then the focus of CM was getting qualified through the election. Now after a unanimous election, he is victorious. Maybe someone brings this article to his attention and the article may certainly serve the purpose.

    bhattacharjee.madhumita

    1 week ago

    we can't do this to our saviors.

    dsreepathi61

    1 week ago

    Difficult times. 3 to 4 old textile mills could have converted in to a new Government Hospital.

    glnprasad52

    1 week ago

    One realization is that when you want a solution, you have to project the issue that grabs the attention, and the author/doctor presented the issue in the correct tone required for solving the same. Kudos to Doctor for her lucid presentation. (Author/doctor has diagnosed, prescribed and let us wait as to who will provide those medicines for chronic sickness of such Govt Hospitals)

    valentine.barboza

    1 week ago

    A truly well written article and I can realise the immense suffering and agony Doctors go through.. who created this slum, why did all of us not vouch for a one child policy, why did we not get together and raise our voice against slums, why did we allow a corrupt BMC to loot all of us?
    As written the lady is worried about her other kids back home.. y Did she have more kids when she could not afford? This was all in our hands.. we always wanted the best for us , our kids and our family.. we were never concerned about our surroundings.. we allowed filth, garbage to get over us.. I really do not feel sorry for the patients.. I feel sorry for myself.. I did not raise my voice for the wrongdoings of the government and the politicians.. Covid 19 could just be the beginning.. let’s wait for some more..

    RJ

    1 week ago

    At last, a lamb has broken her silence. And how! Her cry has, no doubt, pierced thousands of hearts, aroused the conscience of some and galvanised a few others into action.

    Kudos to Dr Neela Patwardhan!

    REPLY

    shetyerb

    In Reply to RJ 1 week ago

    I also appreciate the lambs breaking the silence and coming to the public with the injustice done to them, and that too after they are working putting their own lives in danger.
    Kudos to the Medical Fraternity in General and the Govt Hospital Staff in particular. Not wanting to talk about the BABUs.

    skinbeautydoc

    1 week ago

    Extremely well written article. Being an alumnus of LTMMC, I realized that things have not changed even 3 decades after I left it. Shocking is a mild word, since I am unable to think of another, to know how the institution gets a bad name due to administrative apathy. Those working under such squalor get a bad name despite skipping meals and sleep, just to serve the helpless public. The mass media are also to blame for not balancing the bad news with the real facts. Please repost your article to multiple groups to let public know the reality. I'm an optimist who our system has converted to a pessimist.... and I stopped on writing issues like these. Perhaps I'm wrong.
    Dr Rajan TD, 1981 batch

    kocharbipin61

    1 week ago

    Over 75% of the COVID patients are asymptomatic or mild cases - which do not require hospitalization and typically discharged for home care and self quarantine.

    However, our hospitalization protocols have failed to quickly adopt these best practices resulting in heavy crowding and gross overload on the hospital staff.

    As self quarantine may not be feasible for many in Dharavi, the Government needs to open quarantine centers in nearby schools where the asymptomatic and mild patients can be transferred till they become non-infectious to others.

    This simple step will enable the doctors to focus efforts on serious cases and save valuable lives.

    Furthermore, Maharashtra Government should make it mandatory for all private doctors below 45 to serve in COVID hospitals and care centres as the mortality risk shoots up for those over 55.

    1 in 4 popular YouTube COVID-19 videos in English mislead viewers
    Despite YouTube's efforts to remove pandemic related minsinformation, more than a quarter of the most viewed COVID-19 English-language videos on the platform contains misleading or inaccurate information, reveals a new study.
     
    Misleading or inaccurate information in these videos included claims such as pharmaceutical companies already have a cure, but refuse to sell it, or that certain countries have stronger strains of coronavirus; inappropriate recommendations for the general public; racist and discriminatory remarks; and conspiracy theories.
     
    "This is particularly alarming, when considering the immense viewership of these videos," said the researchers.
     
    "Evidently, while the power of social media lies in the sheer volume and diversity of information being generated and spread, it has significant potential for harm," they added.
     
    For the study, published online in the journal BMJ Global Health, Heidi Oi-Yee Li, a medical student at the University of Ottawa in Canada, and her colleagues searched the Google-owned digital platform for the most widely viewed and relevant videos as of March 21.
     
    After excluding those that were duplicates, in languages other than English, lasted more than an hour, or didn't contain audio or visual content, 69 videos became eligible for analysis.
     
    The number of views for the 69 videos included in the analysis added up to 257, 804,146.
     
    Nearly 50 of the videos contained only factual information. But more than one in four contained misleading or inaccurate information, representing 62,042,609 views or around a quarter of the total, said the study.
     
    Among the 19 misleading videos, around a third came from entertainment news, with network and internet news sources each accounting for around a quarter. Consumer videos made up 13 per cent of the total.
     
    While good quality accurate information put out by government bodies and experts is widely available on YouTube, it's often hard to understand and lacks popular appeal, so does not have the reach it needs, said the researchers.
     
    In a blog post on March 15, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that the company was removing COVID-19 misinformation on YouTube, Google Maps, its developer platforms like Play, and across ads.
     
    "On YouTube, we've taken down thousands of videos related to dangerous or misleading coronavirus information, and we continue to remove videos that promote medically unproven methods to prevent coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment," Pichai said.
     
    Besides removing misleading information, YouTube is also promoting helpful information, including raising up authoritative sources in search and recommendations and showing information panels, linking to locally relevant sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), on relevant videos.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Questions I Asked About the Viral “Plandemic” Video
    ProPublica health care reporter Marshall Allen describes the questions he asks to assess coronavirus misinformation, starting with a viral video that claims the coronavirus is part of a “hidden agenda.”
     
    The links to the viral video “Plandemic” started showing up in my Facebook feed Wednesday. “Very interesting,” one of my friends wrote about it. I saw several subsequent posts about it, and then my brother texted me, “Got a sec?”
     
    My brother is a pastor in Colorado and had someone he respects urge him to watch “Plandemic,” a 26-minute video that promises to reveal the “hidden agenda” behind the COVID-19 pandemic. I called him and he shared his concern: People seem to be taking the conspiracy theories presented in “Plandemic” seriously. He wondered if I could write something up that he could pass along to them, to help people distinguish between sound reporting and conspiracy thinking or propaganda.
     
    So I watched “Plandemic.” I did not find it credible, as I will explain below. YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo have since removed it from their platforms for violating their guidelines. Now it’s available on its own site.
     
    Sensational videos, memes, rants and more about COVID-19 are likely to keep coming. With society polarized and deep distrust of the media, the government and other institutions, such content is a way for bad actors to sow discord, mostly via social media. We saw it with Russia in the 2016 election and we should expect it to continue.
     
    But what surprised me is how easily “Plandemic” sank its hooks into some of my friends. My brother also felt alarmed that his own church members and leaders in other churches might be tempted to buy into it.
     
    The purpose of this column is not to skewer “Plandemic.” My goal is to offer some criteria for sifting through all the content we see every day, so we can tell the difference between fair reporting and something so biased it should not be taken seriously.
     
    Here’s a checklist, some of which I shared with my friends on Facebook, to help interrogate any content — and that includes what we publish at ProPublica.
     
    Is the Presentation One-Sided?
    There’s never just one side to a story. I mentioned this point in 2018 when I wrote about my faith and the biblical basis for investigative reporting. One of my favorite Proverbs says, “The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.” So a fair presentation should at least acknowledge opposing points of view.
     
    I didn’t see this in “Plandemic,” so I called the filmmaker, Mikki Willis, who is also the film’s narrator, to ask him whether I had somehow missed the other side of the argument. I had not. “The other side of the argument plays 24/7 on every screen in every airport and on every phone and in every home,” Willis said. “The people are only seeing one side of the story all the time. This is the other side of the story. This is not a piece that’s intended to be perfectly balanced.”
     
    I asked Willis if it was fair to call his film “propaganda,” which the Oxford dictionary defines as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”
     
    He said he doesn’t feel there’s anything misleading in his film, but otherwise the definition fits. And based on that definition he feels 100% of news reporting is propaganda. “What isn’t propaganda these days?” he asked. “In that sense, what we’re doing is fighting fire with fire.” 
     
    Is There an Independent Pursuit of the Truth?
    The star of “Plandemic,” medical researcher Judy Mikovits, is controversial. The magazine Science reports that it published and then retracted one of her papers in 2011. A search warrant provided to ProPublica by one of her former attorneys shows she was fired from her position at Whittemore Peterson Institute, a research center in Nevada, in September 2011. Then she allegedly stole notebooks and a laptop computer from the Institute, the search warrant said, leading to an arrest warrant for alleged possession of stolen property and unlawful taking of computer data. She was arrested on Nov. 18, 2011, but denied wrongdoing. The charges were dropped.
     
    But “Plandemic” ignores or brushes past these facts and portrays her as an embattled whistleblower. “So you made a discovery that conflicted with the agreed-upon narrative?” Willis says to Mikovits, introducing her as a victim. “And for that, they did everything in their powers to destroy your life.” Continue Reading…
     
     
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    COMMENTS

    sinha.satiprasad

    2 weeks ago

    Well. We all love conspiracy theories.

    shekharpcg

    2 weeks ago

    Marshall, you will do well if you do a proper research (not a fun (or funny!) research just to write a piece!). Why are you only talking about Dr. Judy Mikovits? First, you must know nothing is white or black--shades of grey. Listen to Dr. Thomas Cowan about the RT-PCR test being a 'surrogate' test and not a 'gold standard'test. He doesn't seem to have any political agenda. Listen to Dr. Andrew Kaufmann on the statistics of death in US. Check out statistics of CDC! Do some work!? You may say that Dr. Rashid Buttar or Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai who attack Dr. Anthony Fauci might have political leanings! I suggest you do rigorous research before writing or your piece will be trashed! Your choice!!

    REPLY

    rajneesh

    In Reply to shekharpcg 2 weeks ago

    I agree with you....I have lost all trust in ProPublica....this guy is complete nonsense and I wonder why Moneylife is spreading misinformation and suppressing the truth...

    shekharpcg

    In Reply to rajneesh 2 weeks ago

    Thanks. You know Moneylife is a credible group. Hence, I read this fully. I agree with you that this guy seems to be non-sensical journalist. You seem to be knowing more about ProPublica and I must admit that this is the first piece I read. We should bring it to the notice of Sucheta and Debashis who are genuine and credible.

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