Government sends notice to Pune hospital

Jehangir Hospital, where 14-year-old Rida Shaikh died of swine flu on Monday, is under siege. Rida’s family has alleged medical negligence, saying she would have lived had she been given the right medicines.

“Our only mistake was that we trusted the doctors at Jehangir,” said Rida’s aunt Ayesha Shaikh, adding that the family would sue the hospital.

Asif Lampwalla, a lawyer representing the Shaikhs, said: “Criminal action would be taken against Jehangir Hospital as well as Ruby Hall Hospital, which wrongly tested Rida’s throat swabs.”

A Jehangir Hospital spokesperson refuted the charges. “We’ll cooperate fully in any inquiry,” he added.

The government sent a show cause notice to Ruby Hall, asking it to explain why it conducted a swine flu test on Rida when only government institutes were authorised to do so.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said on TV, “There was negligence on the part of Jehangir Hospital. We’ll take action against it.”

As the details emerged on Tuesday, it became clear that Jehangir first treated Rida with antibiotics for pneumonia. After suspecting swine flu on July 29, her throat swabs were sent to Ruby Hall Hospital.

The government procedure is clear that all suspected swine flu patients' samples must be tested at the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

Ruby Hall, a private hospital, found no trace of flu in the samples.

A day later, as Rida’s health deteriorated, Jehangir Hospital sent another set of samples to the NIV, which confirmed swine flu on July 31. By this time, Rida’s condition was critical and she was put on a ventilator.

Local health authorities said Jehangir Hospital kept them in the dark.

“My health department got to know about the case [on] the evening [of July 31],” said Pune Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Zagade.

It was only on July 31 that the doctors at Jehangir administered Tamiflu, the medicine prescribed for the virus.

Tamiflu is available only at government hospitals, but it was made available to Jehangir after health authorities got to know of Rida’s case.

Prasad Mugalikar, Jehangir Hospital’s medical superintendent, claimed: “We took every precaution to prevent the infection from spreading.”

Defending the hospital’s decision to not shift Rida to the government-run Naidu Hospital, despite guidelines to do so, Mugalikar said: “We didn’t shift because the patient was critical.” He claimed that state authorities were informed about the case.    

Nirmala Choudhari, the vice-principal of Rida’s school, St Anne’s in Pune, said: “No health authority came to our school for quarantine operations.”


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