Toddler's life hangs in balance after being turned away by 7 Mumbai hospitals

Feb 02, 2017, 19:40 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Shabhas Ali's family kept him alive through the night by manually pumping his resuscitator for seven hours

When one-and-a-half year-old Shabhas Ali went out to play last evening, a roadside food cart toppled over him, crushing his chest and leading to internal bleeding. The 'golden hour' rule was killed as his father Shaitu was shunted between seven hospitals for want of a bed and inability to pay a hefty deposit.

To add to their anguish, Shahbas Ali, who has been unconscious through the night, had to be kept on support of a manual resuscitator with his family physically pumping it for hours till he was finally admitted to Sion hospital on a second try.

No empty beds
Five major hospitals – Sion, Nair, KEM, JJ and Wadia – didn’t have a single vacancy in the PICU to admit Shahbas, the son of a daily wager from Virar. Desperate, they approached private hospitals Seven Hills and Holy Spirit, "but they refused to do anything without the deposit ranging between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000 being handed in. It was only after we went back to Sion hospital that they managed to find an empty slot for the child at 6.30 am when another patient was discharged. But, the doctor has told me that his health has deteriorated due to the delay in getting the treatment," rues Shaitu, Shahbas's father.

Alarmingly though, even the tertiary and peripheral hospitals in the city — Cama, Bhabha, and Cooper — that were contacted by mid-day on phone to check for beds — came up empty. St George and Shatabdi hospitals said they didn’t have a PICU for serious paediatric patients.

One-and-half-year-old's parents shuttle between 7 hospitals over  9 hours to have him treated
The letter Shaitu was made to write by JJ Hospital

JJ, the worst
However, the worst treatment was meted out to the family by the staff at JJ hospital that abdicated all responsibility by making the family sign off a ‘negative consent’ letter and even threatening this reporter over recording the event. Shahbas’s uncle Gul Mohammad Shah said, “After KEM and Nair, when we took him to JJ Hospital, they refused to admit him.”

Shaitu begged the authorities to admit the child. "He is lying unconscious since the accident and can’t even breathe. If I can’t save my child, I will commit suicide here," he pleaded. The hospital washed their hands off the matter with a letter in English that read, "At present as there is no PICU vacancy at JJ. I am not ready to admit my child in the ward at my own risk and I will not hold the treating doctor and staff responsible to any untoward consequences."

Toddler's life hangs in balance after being turned away by 7 Mumbai hospitalsShabhas Ali

Private play
Holy Spirit and Seven Hills refused to admit the child without a deposit. “When no government hospital agreed to admit him, we went to private hospitals. But they refused to admit him without the deposit,” said Mohammad.

But, Sneha Joseph, executive director of Holy Spirit Hospital, Bandra stated that the child couldn’t be admitted because there was no ventilator.

Dr Raj Karva, medical superintendent of Seven Hills Hospital said if patients’ ailments do not fall within the criteria to procure benefits under Rajiv Gandhi Yojana, they are asked to pay in cash or referred to government hospitals.

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