HIV+ transgender turned away from one BMC hospital, ill-treated at another

Believe it or not, your gender could come in the way of your treatment at the civic hospitals in the city. Kumari Garima (name changed), a transgender who has been suffering from jaundice, has learnt this the hard way. On September 23, her friends first took her to Nair hospital, where she was refused treatment.

Kumari Garima at KEM hospital. (below) The letter that was submitted by Garima’s friends to the acting dean of KEM Hospital, where she was discriminated against

Her experiences at KEM Hospital were equally marred by palpable discrimination. Garima was made to wait for seven hours for any kind of treatment. When she was admitted to ward 8, she was made to lie next to a washroom. During the treatment, a doctor remarked that she be sent back home, as she was HIV positive.

“We first took Garima to Nair hospital for treatment, but when they realised that she was a transgender, they refused to admit her. In KEM Hospital, Garima was made to lie in a mattress right beside the washroom in ward number 8. It was only after we protested to the hospital authorities that a bed was arranged for Garima a little bit away from the washroom,” said Gauri Sawant, her friend and director of Sakhi Char Choughi, a Malad-based NGO.

When Sawant saw a nurse drawing Garima’s blood, she informed her that Garima was HIV-positive, and advised the staffer to wear gloves for precaution. “To my surprise, the nurse said that they were running short of gloves, and so using them was difficult. I fail to understand how a hospital can risk the lives of staff members,” remarked Sawant.

The ailing woman and her friend were in for more rude shocks. One of the doctors, who was on his rounds on September 24, said about Garima: “HIV-positive hai toh ghar pe leke jao (If the patient is HIV positive take her home)”.

Appalled by the treatment meted out to their friend, Sawant and a few other friends wrote to the acting dean of KEM Hospital Shubhangi Parkar on September 25, under the subject ‘Discrimination and partial treatment to transgender’. The letter reads: ‘The patient has not been receiving proper treatment and one of the attending doctors was audacious enough to tell her ‘HIV-positive hai toh ghar pe leke jao.’ I have been a member of various committees of the Government of India for recommending steps to be taken to prevent stigma and discrimination against our community, especially those who are HIV-positive’.

In the letter, Sawant goes on to say: ‘We expect a prestigious hospital like KEM to be sensitive towards the community and treat them with a human touch. I request you to issue appropriate instructions to your staff so that the patient mentioned above gets prompt, appropriate medical attention as desired by her present medical condition, without any discrimination’.

“When we approached the acting dean, she was going for a meeting, and randomly allotted a person to look into the matter. However, there has been no response from her, and neither has any official come to us for any details,” said Sawant.  

Shubhangi Parkar, acting dean, KEM hospital
I am aware about the transgender patient and her health, but I haven’t read the letter yet. I was unaware of this issue. I will look into the matter and find out soon.

S Das, deputy dean, Nair hospital
I cannot comment as I am not aware of the issue, but we do not refuse to take in any kinds of patients.

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