A woman battling kidney failure died in a government hospital in Bihar on Wednesday after the staff refused to accept old banknotes for dialysis, the latest in a string of deaths blamed on demonetisation.
While announcing the decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said government hospitals and their pharmacies would continue to accept payments in old currency till November 24.
Manju Devi, whose husband Gora Manjhi is a dailywager, was brought to Gaya’s Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College Hospital (ANMMCH) a week ago because of pregnancy complications.
She suffered a miscarriage and doctors found her kidneys had failed, hospital superintendent Dr Sudhir Kumar Sinha said.
The doctors prescribed dialysis on Wednesday. “When the patient’s attendants went to the centre on our hospital campus to make the booking for dialysis, it refused to accept demonetised currency notes,” Dr Sinha said.
The dialysis centre is run in partnership with B Braun Medical India Private Limited, a Mumbai-based multi-national firm.
The doctor said when the woman’s family informed him, he sent his staff with a letter that mentioned the note-ban exemption for government facilities.
Despite the letter, the dialysis centre staff allegedly refused to accept old notes. As they waited for instructions from their head office, Devi passed away.
A show-cause notice was issued to the firm, said Dr Singh, who has also sought dismissal of the staff who refused the money.
Braun Medical India’s assistant manager at Patna Abhishek Kumar said the firm had nothing to do with the death of the woman, who was not even brought to the centre. Only her attendants came to make some inquires.
“We are bound by government agreement not to accept serious patients for dialysis as the hospital does not have nephrologists. Since we are a private body, we were advised not to accept demonetised currency,” he said. The staff agreed to accept the payment but the woman died within minutes of her family visiting the centre, he said.
Gaya superintendent of police chief Awakash Kumar said they would seek a report though a complaint had not been lodged.
The Modi government’s decision to recall the two high-value notes had led to a cash crunch. The notes that were scrapped accounted for 86% of the currency in circulation, opening a huge demand and supply gap in the country where most transactions are cash-driven.
The pinch is being felt more acutely in rural areas as cash is in short supply and the majority of the population doesn’t even have bank accounts.