Mumbai: Senior citizen found dead in KEM loo, family alleges negligence and cover up

Not noticing that the senior citizen was inside OPD toilet, hospital workers lock ward and leave for the day. Next morning, hospital officials move the body and clean the toilet before police can arrive

A visit to KEM Hospital ended miserably for a 72-year-old who got locked inside a toilet by careless staff for a full 15 hours and was found dead when the lock was opened the next day. For his family too, it was a wretched 15 hours as they searched high and low for the senior citizen, only to learn that he had died alone in the loo, with no food, water or anyone to call for help. Already incensed by the hospital’s negligence, the family was even more shocked that the body had been moved and the toilet cleaned before the police could get there.

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Dattatray Kamble (above); his family members mourn at their Currey Road home. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Dattatray Kamble (above); his family members mourn at their Currey Road home. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Dattatray Kamble (72) and his wife Sunanda had gone to the out-patient department (OPD) on Tuesday for a check-up at the nephrology section, where she had undergone a kidney surgery two years ago. After they went to the dispensary on the ground floor to pick up the medicines, Dattatray told his wife that he had to attend nature’s call. This was around 4.30 pm.

Dattatray Kamble (72) died of a brain haemorrhage while he was locked in the KEM Hospital toilet. His body was found by the cleaners the next morning
Dattatray Kamble (72) died of a brain haemorrhage while he was locked in the KEM Hospital toilet. His body was found by the cleaners the next morning

At 6.30 pm, he still hadn’t returned, and Sunanda grew worried. She called the family and told them about Dattatray’s sudden disappearance, after which they began a desperate search for him. Dattatray was inside the toilet just a floor above, but there was no way they could have found him there, as the door had been locked from outside.

Dattatray’s son Sunil recalled, “As soon as we got to know, we looked everywhere. We went to OPD ward 102, where he had taken my mother for her check-up, and we checked all the other wards, but we couldn’t find him. Eventually we thought he might return after a while and waited for 24 hours, after which we would file a missing report.”

“If only the person had checked inside the toilet before locking it, my father could’ve been with me today,” he said.

Horrible timing
Although the OPD is manned by seven nurses, one matron, nine safai kamgars and two security guards, not one person checked to see whether the loo was empty before it was locked. One of the security personnel confirmed that Dattatray had gone to the loo around the time the OPD was shutting down, and the cleaner was about to start cleaning the men’s washroom. “The safai kamgar told him that the OPD is shut but since Dattatray said that he wouldn’t take long, he let him in. He cleaned the rest of the washroom and once his duty hours were over, he informed the nurse and left the ward,” said the BMC-appointed security staff.

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Sources from the hospital confirmed that Dattatray was in the sole cubicle in the washroom, so the nurse didn’t see him inside. Since the cleaner had left, the nurse assumed the toilet was empty and he locked the toilet and the ward around 5 pm and left.

It was at 7.30 the next morning that the hospital authorities found Dattatray’s lifeless body on the toilet floor. The cleaning staff was the first on the scene. They entered the loo and found the cubicle locked.

The on-duty cleaner told mid-day that he waited for 15 minutes but when nobody responded to his calls and knocks, he stepped up on a chair and peeked into the loo and saw Dattatray on the floor.

“We then used a long stick to open the latch from inside. We realised he was probably dead; we carried him down to the casualty ward, where he was pronounced dead,” said a staff member.

Clean-up job
Just the presence of his body in the toilet showed shocking negligence by the hospital, but the staff went a step further. By the time the Bhoiwada police officials got there, the body had already been taken out and the washroom had been washed and cleaned, leaving them no way to study the scene of his death.

Staff members even used Dattatray’s mobile phone to call the last dialled number, which connected them to his brother in Mulund. This was how the family learnt of his death at 7.45 am yesterday and realised that Dattatray had even tried calling his brother for help while he was stuck, but there was no network.

“There was no network inside the washroom and my father tried calling but he couldn’t reach us. I can only imagine the helplessness of a 72-year-old man trapped inside,” said a teary-eyed Sunil.

The Bhoiwada police registered an Accidental Death Report (ADR), but the family alleged his death was no accident but was caused by KEM’s negligence, which they then tried to cover up.

Sunil further alleged that they were even asked to get a death certificate from a private doctor so that the body wouldn’t be sent for post-mortem. “Why would we need a certificate from a private doctor when my father died inside the hospital completely due to the negligence of the staff members? It is completely outrageous that the staff didn’t even check the washrooms before locking it, not bothered if there is someone inside,” said Sunil.

The investigating officer, API S Dombare said that KEM dean Dr Avinash Supe had confirmed there was negligence on the hospital’s part, and said the police will take necessary action.

Cause of death
Dattatray’s body was sent for post-mortem and forensic experts from KEM confirmed that while the locked toilet door had prevented his body from being found earlier, it did not cause his death.

“Preliminary cause of death is intraventricular haemorrhage of the brain, but the final cause of death will be revealed once the chemical analysis reports of Kalina Forensic Laboratory will be out. Dattatray died before 6 pm, and according to the findings, he wasn’t even able to unlock the cubicle due to his condition. It might have been caused due to extreme weakness in his cerebral vessel, amongst other pre-existing medical conditions,” said Dr Harish Pathak, head of the Forensic Medicine department.

The other side
KEM Hospital dean Dr Avinash Supe confirmed that he has set up an independent inquiry to investigate the incident and would only be able to comment once the results are out. “We have appointed our assistant security officer to investigate the matter. As far as the question of meddling with the scene goes, although the person was already dead, we had to take him to the casualty ward. The investigating officers were on the spot and have inspected the scene of incident themselves. I don’t think there is any issue,” he said.

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