A private hospital in Karnataka has allegedly held captive an elderly woman and her son for nearly seven months as they have failed to pay their medical bills.
The patients are from neighbouring Kerala. Their reported ordeal has prompted the Kerala State Human Rights Commission to take cognisance of the matter. The hospital authorities, however, have denied the allegation.
Parukutty VV, 60, was admitted to super-specialty KS Hegde Hospital in Mangalore city (Dakshina Kannada district) in June 2013. She was suffering from an asthmatic ailment and heart problems.
Soon after, Umesh, Parukutty's 27-year-old son, was diagnosed with jaundice. He had come to Karnataka, which is known for quality health care at an affordable rate, to accompany his mother. Umesh was also admitted to the hospital.
"We have been languishing here for the last seven months. We spent around Rs 5 lakh as medical expenses. But the hospital says we have to pay Rs 1.20 lakh. Since we are not in a position to pay, our discharge is getting delayed," Umesh told HT.
Misfortune struck the woman and her son when they were in the hospital. Parukutty's another son (she had three sons) met with an accident and died. Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh for the family.
"My mother couldn't accept the relief since the hospital refused to discharge us. Our request that we will pay from the relief amount failed to move the hospital," added Umesh, who used to work as a mason.
According to Umesh, since they were unable to meet the expenses, the security officer of the hospital locked them up for an entire day.
"They also declined my offer to keep me at the hospital until my mother returned after accepting the money," he said.
The Kerala state human rights panel has issued a notice to the Dakshina Kannada district administration in this regard. But the hospital authorities have denied reports of detaining the mother-son duo.
"Both were in the special ward. The son even filed a police compliant against the hospital to get them shifted to the general ward... We have slashed their pending bill to Rs 69,000," said Hemant Shetty, the public relations officer of the hospital, adding Parukutty and Umesh were free to leave.
Umesh said the hospital was forced to budge after the news of their ordeal started doing the rounds. "We have been told that we would be discharged in a couple of days."
Named after former Lok Sabha Speaker and ex-Supreme Court judge KS Hegde, the super-specialty hospital started functioning in 1998. Anti-corruption crusader N Santosh Hegde is the son of late KS Hegde.