Alleging medical negligence, family members said the doctors were reluctant to attend to the woman, taking her to be a Covid-19 patient.
"My aunt was a patient of asthma for the last 10 years. The doctors at IGIMS, however, took her as a Covid-19 suspect. They prescribed RT PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) screening for Covid-19, and were reluctant to attend to her unless her laboratory report came," said Raj Kishore Prasad 'Sadhu', a close relative of the deceased.
The doctor, who initially examined the woman when she turned up at the emergency, wrote "urgent" while prescribing RT PCR of nasopharyngeal swab for Covid-19 on the institute's letter pad. However, none bothered to collect her sample for three days before her death at the institute Saturday morning, he claimed.
"We met the higher-ups in the hospital to instruct the paramedics or doctors concerned to take her nasopharyngeal swab, but no one turned up. Finally, her medical condition worsened last evening and she was taken to the intensive care unit. She was declared dead this morning," he added.
The IGIMS death certificate mentioned "cardio-pulmonary arrest" as the immediate cause of death. It also mentioned "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with cor pulmonale" (abnormal enlargement of the right side of the heart as a result of disease of the lungs or the pulmonary blood vessels) and "acute renal failure" as antecedent cause of the patient's death.
The Hindustan Times has copies of the patient's death certificate and doctor's advice for RT PCR of nasopharyngeal swab for Covid-19.
Dr Arshad Ahmad, additional professor of medicine, under whose unit the patient was admitted, did not respond to this reporter's phone calls or text message.
Hospital administrators, too, were evasive.
"I am not looking after Covid-19 cases or their suspects. You may please speak to the competent authority," said IGIMS medical superintendent Dr Manish Mandal.
"One of our junior doctors had advised the Covid-19 test, which was not required and later deleted from the patient's medical file after our institute was designated a non-Covid-19 hospital. Our doctors, however, did not neglect the patient, who was suffering from hypertension, diabetes, metabolic acidosis (when the body produces too much acid) and COPD. She was admitted to the high dependency unit before being shifted to ICU, where she died," said medical superintendent-II Dr Gopal Krishan, who is also the coordinator for corona related management at the institute.
The IGIMS began RT PCR screening for Covid-19 from March 24. Its director Dr NR Biswas had then admitted that his paramedics were reluctant to take nasopharyngeal samples for Covid-19.
"I have told them I will terminate their services if they do not collect samples after our dean and head of microbiology, Dr SK Shahi, showed them the way to do it," Dr Biswas had then told this reporter.