Two weeks after the Hindustan Times reported the death of 26-year-old HIV patient Vandana Patel (name changed), whose family alleged, was denied admission by apathetic staff at the civic Bhagwati Hospital, the BMC has written to the hospitals of the area, to probe her death.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Kishore Gajbhiye said, "On the basis of the newspaper report I have written to the Chief Medical Superintendent to ascertain the facts of the case, and whether the lady was denied admission. The probe into her death should not take more than two weeks."
Patel, an outreach worker for HIV-positive women like herself, died on January 9. Her husband Suresh (name changed), also affected by HIV, alleged she was denied admission to Bhagwati Hospital when he took her there on the night of January 8.
"The doctor on duty spoke roughly to her, asking her questions when she was in no position to speak, and just wrote out a prescription before asking us to leave despite my pleas," he had told HT.
Vandana died the next noon while being rushed to JJ Hospital, 30 km away from her home in the Malwani slum Gaikwad Nagar. Speaking to the paper, Bhagwati’s Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr V Bhatt had however denied that any patient was turned away.
Prabha Desai, a professor at Patkar College and head of the Sanmitra Trust, which works in AIDS care and prevention in the sprawling red-light quarter of Malad’s Malwani slum, and had just hired Vandana, said, "I have been summoned by hospital authorities today and will file a formal complaint about the negligence of the doctor-on-duty."
Desai added that to ensure such preventable deaths do not occur again, her trust will also demand for an in-camera hearing of HIV+ patients, especially women, as part of the probe, since medical staff flouted BM’s special directives to not discriminate against HIV + patients.
Desai elaborated, "These patients are subjected by staff to a host of embarrassing questions, especially about their sexual history, which are unnecessary during an emergency admission. Their experiences must be put on record so that the probe into Vandana’s death can be a learning and reformative exercise for the BMC, and not merely a witch hunt."