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Farrukhabad deaths: Nexus between govt and private hospitals a death trap for patients

A probe into the deaths of 49 children at the Farrukhabad district hospital within a span of one month put the blame on the lack of oxygen supply.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2017 20:38 IST
Haidar Naqvi
Haidar Naqvi
Hindustan Times
Farrukhabad,Farrukhabad infant deaths,Farrukhabad children
People protest at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia government hospital in Farrukhabad where doctors were on strike after an FIR was registered against them over the death of 49 children.(Manoj Yadav/HT Photo)

More than a hundred private hospitals and nursing homes stand cheek by jowl along a stretch less than a kilometer long in western Uttar Pradesh’s Farrukhabad city.

Sitting in the centre of this medical mélange is the government-run Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, currently in the news for the death of 49 children in a month — 30 of them at its “sick newborn care unit”.

The private healthcare units surrounding this big hospital are mostly bare-bones hole-in-the-wall establishments. They depend on the government hospital for business.

“You can say Lohia hospital is merely an extension of these private hospitals,” social activist Dinesh Dass said.

“Private hospitals fleece patients and send them to RML hospital when their condition deteriorates. The hospitals and doctors have developed a well-oiled mechanism to let the medical business boom,” he alleged.

They have grown exponentially and unchecked over the years and the health department doesn’t have accurate figures to show how many of them are registered or have a licence. An old list says there are 55 registered hospitals. Most of these don’t have incubators or paediatricians.

The focus veered toward the private units after 118 infants died in six months at RML hospital’s unit for ailing newborns. More than 950 children were admitted during that period for treatment.

About 90% of these children were born at private hospitals and later brought to RML. Most of them suffered from perinatal asphyxia and other complications.

According to official records, of the 30 children who lost their lives, 24 were born outside.

“Why the high number of deaths of children born at private hospitals is not ringing alarm bells in the government?” asked a senior health official, as he and his colleagues are under pressure over the latest tragedy.

“Pregnant women or children are first referred to ill-equipped private hospitals that, after draining the family financially, send the patients to RML hospital to escape culpability,” he said.

A report on the child deaths submitted by city magistrate Jainendra Kumar Jain underscores the role of private and unathorised hospitals.

Sources said the report mentions government doctors working for these hospitals.

The mechanism works this way: a leading doctor at RML refers patients to her husband’s private hospital and she treats only those sent back in a critical condition.

Another senior government doctor works at operating theatres of private units. He is one of the three anaesthetics in the district drawing a salary from taxpayers’ money.

The nexus runs deep into rural areas as well. The government-funded 102 and 108 ambulance services don’t take patients to RML hospital. Poorly paid drivers of private ambulances are given a bonus for each patient they bring to a non-government medical unit.

Anganwadi and Asha community workers as well as auxiliary nurse midwives work as agents of private hospitals in the countryside, where they are the first line of healthcare for pregnant women.

A midwife and an Asha worker were charged two months ago with conducting an abortion with a quack at a private hospital.

“These hospitals have become so aggressive and dominant that their agents get inside (government hospital) and force patients to get treatment at the private units,” a source in RML said.

The staff, mostly on contract, helps agents transfer patients under government care for money. And brazenly ask patients to pay up.

Touts focus on pregnant women as private hospitals earn between Rs 25,000 and Rs50,000 for each delivery through the cesarean section, which is rampant.

Khalid Ali, whose baby died at RML in August, said he took his wife to a private hospital after she was denied admission at the government facility. The baby was born through the C-section.

In many cases of forced C-sections, babies are born premature and with serious complications.

When things go out of hand, the private units send the babies to RML keeping the mother with them to make sure the family doesn’t default on the bill.

According to sources, 70% of private facilities are run by quacks.

Parents of the dead infants blame doctors at private clinics and RML in equal measure.

“The hospital employees were cruel. My child died due to negligence. There were ants on my child’s body and no one came to remove them even after we complained. We were not allowed inside the room. My child had a painful death,” alleged Akhilesh Kumar, who lost his son on August 25.

State health director Hukum Dev had directed the Farrukhabad chief medical officer to initiate action against private hospitals and touts.

The racket hasn’t gone unnoticed, but people said it won’t have thrived in the first place if authorities hadn’t turned a blind eye.

First Published: Sep 06, 2017 20:37 IST