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Sorry, no beds for poor here

Sheela Gupta, a blood cancer patient, was turned away by a private hospital because she didn’t have money for treatment. AIIMS shut its doors on her, saying there weren’t enough beds.
By Jaya Shroff | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 11, 2008 12:54 AM IST

She lay semi-conscious on a charpoy. Flies swarmed over her face as she stared blankly at the cobwebs on the wall. The smell of her soiled pyjamas was making it difficult for anyone to sit inside their rented shed in Burari.

Turned away from both private and government hospitals where she was referred, Sheela Gupta — a patient of blood cancer — and her family are unsure if there is any hope left.

She was refused treatment at Balaji Hospital, a private hospital, and also the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country’s largest referral hospital. On Tuesday evening, after shuttling between hospitals for over a fortnight, she was back at the Hindu Rao Hospital. Here too, she had to wait for over two hours for admission.

She was first taken to Hindu Rao Hospital on May 21. The doctors there referred her to Balaji Hospital for treatment. Despite being referred, she was turned away saying that the medication costs would be close to Rs 8 lakh or more. While the hospital assured her a bed, they refused to bear the cost of medication.

She was then referred to AIIMS, from where she was turned away because there were no beds. Her husband Sanjay Gupta made at least five rounds of AIIMS before giving up.

“According to the Delhi Government directive that provides for free treatment to the poor, we had referred her to Balaji Hospital. They refused to bear the costs of the medication saying that there was a stay on the directive from the court. But we at Hindu Rao Hospital were not intimated about such a development by the government or the hospital,” said Hindu Rao Hospital’s nodal officer in-charge for economically weaker scheme.

“For no fault of her, she was subjected to unnecessary trauma. A poor person certainly has a right to proper treatment,” he said. Authorities at Balaji Hospital refused to comment on the matter.

Sanjay Gupta, a driver by profession, visited both the government and the private hospitals in the city with none willing to admit her from the last 20 days.

“I am a poor driver who barely makes Rs 2,800 per month. I pay a rent of Rs 1,500 and have three children to feed. How can I afford a treatment of Rs 8 lakh?” Gupta said.

He has already sold two motor carts for Rs 23,000 and Rs 40, 000 each and has to pay back a loan of Rs 80,000 on various interest rates (varying between three and six per cent). “I have already put in more than Rs. 90,000 for her treatment. Now, I have nothing left but myself to sell,” he said.

Lack of money is fast pushing her towards death. However, there seems little provision for poor patients. While most government hospitals turn away patients for the lack of beds private hospitals also do not shy from turning away poor patients.

This is despite the high court order that makes it mandatory for every private hospital to reserve 10 per cent beds for patients who cannot otherwise afford treatment.

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