Four days after mid-day's report, health department comes forward to bear medical expenses of government doctor ailing from cancer
Sangita, wife of Dr Bharat Maruthi Lote
Four days after mid-day reported on the heart-breaking video in which a 56-year- old doctor pleaded for euthanasia, with no idea how to pay off debts of Rs 30 lakh incurred for pancreatic cancer treatment, the state's conscience has finally woken. The Health Department has offered to cover the medical cost at the earliest, requesting that treatment not be stopped in the meanwhile.
In a letter dated June 17, the Maharashtra Health Department assured it would cover all the medical costs of the cancer treatment of Dr Bharat Maruti Lote, who spent years in service to the state as a government medical officer. But is it too late?
Having given hope of being able to pay for the expenses, Dr Lote stopped co-operating with the treatment and, as a result, his health has deteriorated. He is currently battling for his life in the ICU. His wife, Sangita, said, "When I was following up with them twice a week, they were mum. Now, without any follow-up, they approached me on Saturday, assuring me that they had started the process to provide financial support."
She added, "I am thankful to mid-day for waking the health department to our plight. But now it may be too late, as my husband's health has become worse. If they had acted earlier, his condition would not have been critical."
Dr Bharat Maruthi Lote making a plea for euthanasia in the video
The state's letter to the hospital treating Dr Lote states: "The amount of treatment has been gone up to Rs 30 lakh and this amount will be paid. Until then, please do not stop the treatment on account of money. The Chief Minister's office has acknowledged this case and has directed that action be taken to address this grievance on an immediate basis."
As mid-day had reported on June 13, Dr Lote was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March, after which his family immediately began treatment. As a medical officer posted at the primary health centre at Rampur village in Chiplun taluka, Ratnagiri, and as someone who had served the state health department for 26 years, Lote was entitled to an advance on his salary up to Rs 30 lakh to cover any medical crisis.
Weeks of silence
His wife applied for the money on May 15. But with no answer from the authorities, she was forced to scrape together emergency funds — Rs 3 lakh from his provident fund, Rs 10 lakh by mortgaging their home and pawning off her jewellery and Rs 12 lakh in loans from friends. Nearly a month later, with still no money in sight, her husband finally expressed his wish to give up on life altogether, requesting euthanasia in a video.
"A week ago, my husband called me and asked me to record a video as he asked for euthanasia, since the medical expenses were still rising and the government had not given us a single penny. Being a doctor, he took a government posting because he wanted to serve the poor. Is this how the government paying him back? He even received two prestigious state-level awards for his serve, and this is how he is being treated now," said Sangita.
Strangers were kinder
Not everyone has been as slow to respond to their plight though. After posting the video on Facebook, the couple have received Rs 10,000 in donations from Good Samaritans online. Grateful for their compassion, Sangita said that if the money from the government comes through, these donations will go to help the needy.
Satish Pawar, director of the health department, said, "After the media report, I personally checked the file and found the application was pending at Mantralaya for approval. We are following up on it on an emergency basis, and the Rs 30 lakh will be provided shortly. In the meantime, we have asked that the hospital continue to treat the patient."
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