3 Russian doctors have fallen from hospital windows amid COVID-19 pandemic: reports

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Three doctors who were working on the front lines of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Russia have now fallen out of hospital windows within the past two weeks, according to local media reports.

Two of the physicians have died from their falls, while the most recent case is in serious condition in hospital with a skull fracture, the reports say.

That man, ambulance doctor Alexander Shulepov, reportedly fell from the second-storey window of the rural Novousmanskaya hospital in the Voronezh Oblast on Saturday, where he was being treated for COVID-19 after testing positive in late April.

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He was also an employee at the hospital, which lies roughly 500 kilometres south of Moscow, regional health officials officials confirmed to local outlets.

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According to local media, Shulepov and his colleague, Alexander Kosyakin, filmed a video on April 22 complaining that the hospital’s chief doctor had forced Shulepov to work despite testing positive for the virus.

The video, which was posted to Russian social media platform VK, also contains allegations of medical supply shortages, media reported.

Three days later, Shulepov posted a new video where he denied the earlier allegations, saying he had made them in a state of “emotions.” It also featured an appearance by the chief doctor assuring the hospital had enough equipment.

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In an interview with CNN, Kosyakin said he had last checked in with Shulepov on April 30, and was told his condition had improved.

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“He felt fine, he was getting ready to get discharged from the hospital … and all of a sudden this happened, it’s not clear why and what for, so many questions that I don’t even have the answer to.”

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The regional department of Russia’s health ministry told CNN in a statement that Shulepov “is a victim of an accident due to his own lack of caution,” adding he’s receiving necessary medical care.

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On May 1, Elena Nepomnyashchaya, the acting head doctor of the Regional Hospital for War Veterans in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, passed away after spending a week in intensive care, according to a statement from the regional health ministry.

Local media has reported that Nepomnyashchaya fell from the fifth floor window of the hospital on April 25 shortly after discussions  with regional health officials, who wanted to convert the hospital into a coronavirus treatment facility.

Nepomnyashchaya reportedly pushed back against the plan, arguing the hospital wasn’t properly equipped with enough supplies or trained staff to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.

The regional health ministry denied the allegations in an open statement to the TVK broadcaster, saying no meeting took place. A separate statement said the hospital has been prepared along with all others in the region as a “reserve hospital base” for coronavirus patients.

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On April 24, Natalia Lebedeva, the chief EMS officer at a cosmonaut training centre outside Moscow, fell from the window of the hospital room where she was being treated for COVID-19 symptoms.

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Russian media reports suggest Lebedeva died by suicide after being accused of not controlling an outbreak of the coronavirus at the hospital, which infected several other health-care workers.

The Federal Medical and Biological Agency, who confirmed Lebedeva was being treated for COVID-19 and that she was head of the hospital’s emergency department, called her death an “accident” in a statement also shared on the training centre’s website.

“She was a true professional in her field, saving human lives daily,” the statement reads.

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None of the local media reports have been independently verified by Global News, which has not heard back from Russia’s health ministry or its regional departments.

Russia has quickly become one of the world’s newest epicentres of the global coronavirus pandemic, with cases spiking dramatically over the past few days. The country has reported roughly 10,000 new cases daily since Sunday.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Russia has now seen over 155,000 cases and more than 1,450 deaths.

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The sudden rise in patients is fuelling concerns that the nation’s hospitals could be overwhelmed. Authorities have charged that broader testing has contributed to the recent surge in the new cases and insisted that hospitals so far have been coping with the influx of new cases.

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Russian officials have ordered to ready the total of 120,000 hospital beds across the country’s 82 regions to treat COVID-19 patients along with ventilators and other essential equipment. But many hospitals across the vast country have reported a shortage of equipment and protective gear.

Russia’s economy has been partially shut down since late March, and President Vladimir Putin extended the lockdown measures through May 11 to span the nation’s long public holidays.

— With files from the Associated Press

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