Meenatai Thackeray officials told the woman no bed was available. But mid-day found the ward empty the next day
A 25-year-old woman, in her eighth month of pregnancy, collapsed and died on September 11 after being shunted across three hospitals. She was registered for childbirth at a civic-run hospital in Nerul, but was refused admission on the grounds that there was no bed available. mid-day, however, found that the officials had tried to cover up the absence of a gynaecologist with that lie.
Meenatai Thackeray Hospital in Nerul refused admission, citing shortage of beds
On September 9, the expectant mother and resident of Sanpada, Pinky Chavan, developed pain in the abdomen and began coughing, too. Her family, suspecting that her delivery was due, took her to Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation-run Meenatai Thackeray Hospital in Sector 15 of Nerul, where she had been registered for childbirth. “The doctor there suspected that she was showing early signs of a heart attack and also refused admission, citing shortage of beds in the maternity ward. The doctor advised us to take her to a civic body-run hospital in Vashi,” said Pinky’s uncle, Shivaji Chavan.
Turned away a second time
The family, instead, took her home after the pain subsided. But by evening, Pinky again began complaining of abdominal pain. “We took her to a Vashi corporation-run hospital. The doctor advised immediate admission, but turned us away, citing the same reason of non-availability of beds. We were then referred to DY Patil Hospital in Nerul,” said Shivaji.
Spooked by high bills
When the family rushed Pinky to DY Patil Hospital, the on-duty doctor told them categorically that the hospital bills could run up Rs 60,000-70,000 and recommended that they take her to the state-run JJ Hospital in Mumbai Central. “We sell balloons for a living. Yet, we said we could rustle up R25,000, but the doctor still referred us to JJ Hospital,” said Shivaji.
All through the ordeal, at no point was the family offered the services of 108 ambulance — mandatory in such cases. “We had to arrange for a vehicle of our own to take her to JJ Hospital. By the time we managed to get a vehicle of our own, it was past 3 am on September 10,” alleged the uncle.
Collapsed at JJ
The family pulled into JJ Hospital an hour and a half later. But their tragedy had just begun to unfold.
There, the family was told that there was no doctor available since it was a Sunday. Around 5 am, Pinky claimed to be feeling better and asked for food. “We offered her milk and some biscuits, and then we stepped out for some tea. Soon after, some relatives who were keeping an eye on her told us that she collapsed and was taken to the cardiac care unit,” said Shivaji.
The hospital staff assured the family that once she regained consciousness, a C-section would be performed to save the child. But at 5 pm, the family’s lives crumbled when they found out that both Pinky and her child had not survived. Doctors blamed myocardial infarction (heart attack) for her death.
A case of accidental death was registered at the JJ Marg police station, and the body sent to JJ Hospital’s post-mortem centre on Monday. The final cause of death will be revealed only after the hystopathology and viscera findings are in.
Baby could have been saved
A forensic surgeon at JJ, however, said the baby could have been saved had a timely C-section been performed. “The baby, a boy, weighed over 2 kg,” and was healthy enough to survive.
The autopsy surgeon found that Pinky had an enlarged liver and red patches around her heart, which indicate some underlying ailment.
Dr YS Nandanwar, professor and head of the department of obstetrician and gynaecology, LTMG Hospital, said if there are chances of saving a baby, C-sections can be performed prior to completion of the full term of pregnancy.
The Other Side
Dr TP Lahane, dean of JJ Group of Hospitals, said Pinky was weak when she was brought in. “She weighed only 35 kg and had not completed the 35th week of pregnancy. The staff expected her to have a natural pre-term delivery. She was already in the labour room when she collapsed. The doctors could not find a pulse. She was immediately shifted to the critical care unit, where she was diagnosed with a case of massive myocardial infarction. The post-mortem confirmed the same. There was no foetal heartbeat after the woman collapsed.”
DY Patil says
An official at DY Patil Hospital said they have no record of patients brought to the OPD; only admissions are recorded. He said it’s possible that doctors had referred Pinky to JJ Hospital owing to her complication.
NMMC Commissioner Tukaram Munde admitted to a shortage of staff and equipment. “It is unfortunate, but without doctors and instruments, we cannot provide quality service to people. And this is a problem all across the state.”
What we found
On Tuesday, mid-day visited Meenatai Hospital. A doctor said the facility has 30 maternity beds in the maternity ward, which are “usually fully occupied”. “So we have to refer cases to other hospitals,” said a duty doctor. But the ward was almost empty, with just three women occupying beds in the precinct. On being questioned, a nurse finally revealed that the hospit-al’s gynaecologist has been on leave for the last 10 days, and that two juniors have been handing the department on a rotation basis.