Regional

Hospital spokesman bemoans stigmatisation of COVID-19 patient

Correspondent Shillong, Apr 27 | Publish Date: 4/27/2020 12:06:09 PM IST

Ever since Meghalaya recorded its first COVID-19 case that led to the death of a well known doctor -Dr John L Sailo Rynthathiang-  who had no immediate travel history, the state has become a ‘hot spot’ following 11 more positive cases.

Speaking to this Correspondent Monday, Dr. Kyntiewlang Sanmiet, Nodal Officer and Spokesperson, Bethany Hospital, Shillong, of which the late physician Dr Sailo was the director, cautioned that stigmatization of the disease would worsen matters further.

When asked why was it difficult for the Meghalaya government to trace the source, Dr.Kyntiewlang said : “Pin-pointing the family to be a source of the virus is very hurtful to them especially after losing their loved one and this may cause further stigmatization. Perhaps, their greatest trauma will not be of being the first family to be infected by the virus, rather it would be the emotional turmoil, the stigmatization, the public shaming, especially on social media and the anguish of losing their beloved, which they will have to endure for a long time.”  

Maintaining that it was difficult to find the source of the infection in the state, Sanmiet said there could be many reasons.

“Clinical analysis shows that majority of COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic which means many of them do not know that they have the disease and are silent spreaders. There might be such asymptomatic carrier(s) already in our state whom Dr. Sailo had met. He was a very kind, humble and welcoming person. Besides his family, Bethany staff and patients, we could not clearly say whom he might have met as he never shunned away anyone. If you were a leper and gave your hand to him he would shake it,” he said.

On the health experts suspecting that the late doctor’s son-in-law Arthur Wungthingthing could have infected Dr. Sailo, the Bethany Spokesperson claimed that it was “very clear” that he was not the source of the virus as he had tested negative three times.

Stating that Bethany hospital have the database of patients visiting Dr. Sailo in the last one month, he said, “We never know who else  might have visited him in his office as I said he was a very humble and approachable person and neither did we know who else he met in Nongpoh. I strongly believe he might have got from an asymptomatic person who may or may not be his patient,” Sanmiet said, adding that in order to find the source and beat this virus all asymptomatic carriers in the community need to be “ruled out”.

However,Dr.Sanmiet said “ symptomatic versus asymptomatic isn’t really the appropriate dividing line for us to be focusing on. The appropriate dividing line is documented versus undocumented infection.”  

He explained that “documented” were people who are identified as being infected, either because they were sick enough to go seek care or were tested through contact tracing. The “undocumented” could be people who have symptoms but didn’t get tested, because of lack of access to testing or sheer stoicism or those who had no symptoms or such mild symptoms that they decided to just carry on with their daily lives not understanding that this is a pandemic.

On whether the late physician had met any person (barring his son- in-law) who had returned to the state from abroad, he said, “We really don’t know who else came and visited Dr Sailo in his office in the last one month and whether they had history of travelling abroad or not. Moreover, World Health Organization already declared COVID-19 as a pandemic and India is already in stage 3. So it does not mean you’ll get the virus only if you meet someone who has returned from abroad. There may be many carriers who by now may be negative by PCR test, so we really need to approach this problem with intelligence and more scientific reasoning”.

When inquired if apart from his visit to his Hospital at Nongpoh in Ri Bhoi district, if Dr. Sailo traveled to Guwahati, Sanmiet asserted, “No, he did not.” 

He said stigmatisation “may even lead to a rise of morbidity and mortality in the state should the infection already exist in the community because no one will come forward even if they are sick owing to this stigma and the fear which are a result of ignorance and unawareness of the situation at hand”.

“Even doctors and other healthcare professionals who are on the frontline of the battle are being stigmatized and shunned by others for fear of being infected,” he said.

“ Lastly, let us remember that COVID-19 or Corona virus affects everyone equally and does not see any family, race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood. We are in this together.”

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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