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Swine flu victim's family sues hospitals

The family of Reeda Shaikh, the 14-year-old school girl who became the first victim of Swine flu in India, on Thursday lodged criminal complaint against two private hospitals (Jehangir and Ruby) in Pune for alleged gross negligence that led to her death.

india Updated: Aug 06, 2009 17:23 IST

The parents of Reeda Shaikh, the 14-year-old schoolgirl who became India's first swine flu victim, on Thursday filed a complaint for "gross negligence" with the Pune police against the private Jehangir Hospital where she was admitted and the Ruby Hall Clinic that conducted a test on her, a police official said.

A directive to register a similar complaint was received from the joint director (health) of the Maharashtra government, the official added.

Bund Garden Police Station senior inspector S.M. Nadgouda said Reeda's father Sajid Shaikh and aunt Ayesha along with their lawyer Asif Lampwala arrived this afternoon and submitted a written complaint.

"They have sought strict action against the hospital and the clinic. The letter has been accepted, police will initiate appropriate investigations and then lodge a first information report (FIR)," Nadgouda told IANS.

The matter would be referred to a special committee which would recommend what action should be initiated against the hospital and the clinic following which police would do the needful, he explained.

The Shaikh family has alleged that Reeda could have been saved if the private hospital had provided prompt treatment - a charge denied by the hospital. Health authorities have questioned how she could be treated for swine flu in a private hospital as only designated government hospitals are authorised to do so.

The family has alleged that the Ruby Hall Clinic had not carried out blood tests properly.

Lawyer Lampwala told journalists that the family would initiate criminal and civil proceedings against the two hospitals for "gross negligence".

"We shall seek damages from them which will serve as a warning to other private hospitals," he said.

Reeda's death has led to a scare in Pune, Maharashtra's second largest city. Several hundreds of panic-stricken Pune citizens continued to throng government hospitals in the city seeking tests to confirm if they were infected by the influenza A(H1N1) virus.

"Yesterday, there were nearly 1,500 anxious people queuing up for precautionary tests, but today the numbers are far less," said Pune Municipal Corporation health department head S.R. Pardeshi.

"In view of the panic situation, today we have opened 15 health centres around the city to screen the people who turn up there. Only after the medical officer recommends, we shall admit them for further tests and treatment," Pardeshi told IANS.

While long queues were reported at all the 15 screening centres, the exact numbers of people screened will be available late evening, he said.

The swine flu virus continued to spread in the state with 30 new cases, including an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, reported till Thursday morning, raising the total number to 172, a senior health official said.

"Nine new cases have been detected in Pune, and four in Mumbai, including a senior civil servant," Swine Flu Control Room head Pradeep Awate told IANS.

Among those who tested positive is state Excise Commissioner I.S. Chahal, he said. Chahal had returned from Britain recently and complained of swine flu-like symptoms and was tested positive at the Kasturba Hospital late Wednesday night.

In Pune, two more girls from the St. Annes High School - where Reeda studied - have tested positive, while another girl has been quarantined in the Naidu Hospital for tests for suspected H1N1, Awate added.

Health authorities have asked the school to shut down for a week.

Of the total 172 cases currently being handled by the state health authorities, Pune has 118, Mumbai 26, Panchgani 25, Thane two and Nashik one, Awate said.

Satara District Collector Vikas Deshmukh said the situation in the popular hill station of Panchgani is under control.

"We have already combed all the 46 schools, including the 16 residential public schools, in Panchgani for suspected cases. In the main affected school, St. Peters High School, a special quarantine room has been set up, and similar rooms are in readiness in other schools," Deshmukh told IANS Thursday morning after his fourth inspection trip in the past 10 days.