Hospital's callous attitude forces family to sneak out toddler with swine flu

Bhatia Hospital allegedly refused to discharge the two-year-old patient unless her family paid a bill of over R48,000 for two days without treatment

Even as the state is gripped by the swine flu terror, private hospitals seem more focused on money than on providing the best care for patients, as a Mumbai family discovered last week.

Sheetal Jain and her two-year-old daughter Prisha are now safe and at home after treatment at Jaslok hospital
Sheetal Jain and her two-year-old daughter Prisha are now safe and at home after treatment at Jaslok hospital

Two-year-old Prisha Jain was severely ill, but her family was forced to sneak her out of a private hospital after the management racked up a bill of Rs 48,310 over two days, without even starting the swine flu treatment.

Bhatia Hospital racked up a bill of Rs 48,310 for Prisha’s two-day stay there. They had not begun swine flu treatment for her but charged the family four times for the test
Bhatia Hospital racked up a bill of Rs 48,310 for Prisha’s two-day stay there. They had not begun swine flu treatment for her but charged the family four times for the test

The Jains had just returned from a trip to Jaipur, when five of the 22 family members began feeling feverish. First, Prisha’s mother, Sheetal (32) was found positive with the H1N1 virus. She was taken to Jaslok Hospital for treatment.

The very next day, on February 11, Prisha had high fever and was taken to Bhatia Hospital, which is closer to their residence at Grant road. “Her temperature was above 100 degrees and as a preventive action, I took her to Bhatia hospital.

After checking the patient, doctors asked us to admit her immediately,” said her uncle, Ashok. Prisha was admitted around 9.10 pm, and the next day doctors conducted the swine flu test. On February 13, the tests revealed that she was H1N1 positive.

However, Prisha’s condition had worsened over the last 36 hours without the flu treatment, and her family wished to move her to Jaslok Hospital, which specialised in epidemics. To their dismay, the family was told that Prisha’s bill for two days amounted to Rs 48,310, and a major chunk of the bill was due to four swine flu tests, even though only one positive test is needed to begin treatment.

“I wanted to admit her in Jaslok hospital because she was gasping for breath and the hospital has a specialised unit for epidemic treatment. But I was shocked when the final bill for two days was Rs 48,310. They charged me four times for the H1N1 Real Time PCR test.

We were aware that an individual needs to take the test only once, and it costs not more than R5200,” Ashok said. But when he went to clarify the issue, the management went on the offensive and said they would not discharge Prisha till the full bill was paid.

After haggling for a while, the hospital administration deducted charges for one test (Rs 7010) and other miscellaneous charges (Rs 2800), bringing the bill down to Rs 38,500. Desperate, some of the family members sneaked Prisha out and admitted her in Jaslok Hospital. By this time, her health was in a steep decline and she was barely able to breathe.

Dr Pratik Samdani, from Jaslok Hospital said, “Trisha was short of breath, had fever, cough and cold, so we immediately moved her to the isolation unit in the ICU. She was put on H1N1 treatment for eight days and we discharged her today.”

But when the Bhatia hospital administration realised what the family had done, they allegedly sent security officials to intimidate family members still on the premises. The Jains paid the bill without argument, relieved that they had at least managed to save the toddler.

“Jaslok hospital admitted her in the ICU immediately, which means, had I kept her at Bhatia for more time, her condition could’ve become more serious. At a time like that, the hospital only cared about money and nothing else,” said Ashok. Little Prisha is now feeling better and is at home, but her family is still upset about the callous attitude of Bhatia Hospital, and have approached the health ministry over the matter.

Minister speak
Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant told mid-day that he would check the documents in the case and get in touch with the concerned authorities in order to take action. “I’ll need to meet the relatives and check the documents in order to understand the exact issue and decide the plan of action,” he added. Despite repeated attempts, Bhatia Hospital officials were not available for comment.

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