A Mumbai family suffered the heartbreaking loss of their one-and-half-year-old child after he was turned away by seven hospitals that either had no beds or refused to admit the child unless the parents paid a hefty deposit first.
This is a familiar story of patients being turned away because they cannot cough up cash at admission time. There have been so many instances of precious time ticking by, the ‘golden hour’ for medical treatment slipping away, all because of this inhumane focus on money.
Even if you put the Supreme Court ruling aside, what about compassion and empathy? At least during such emergencies, hospitals must put their demands aside and strive to first save the patient’s life. We can only hope that some good comes out of the inquiry that the government has ordered into the toddler’s death. For now, the state health department has announced that it will set up a centralised system to assist patients in similar emergencies.
Having said that, it is also vital that facilities be upped for children in different hospitals. The fact that so many hospitals did not have a bed vacant, is a pointer to the tremendous pressure they are under, and the urgent need to have more hospitals. If land is scarce, they can be located on the outskirts. That may be inconvenient, but it is certainly better than having no medical care at all.
The commercial capital of the country has belied its hard-nosed ‘money first’ reputation so many times, and shown moving compassion and kindness in terms of crisis. This was through individual Good Samaritans and more organised effort. Mumbai needs to show similar spirit when it comes to such cases. Let this heart-rending case be a turning point, so that desperate families can finally be assured of timely treatment for their loved ones.