Sion Hospital doctors to face action for turning away child

They had refused to admit a three-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted

Two days after mid-day's exposé of Sion hospital's refusal to admit a three-year-old girl, bleeding from her private parts, the Mumbai police registered a suo moto FIR under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), Act, 2012.

While the directives to take action against Sion hospital came from Additional Commissioner of Police Manoj Lohiya's office, the Shivaji Nagar police station has also submitted an investigation report to Lohiya, calling out the lethargy of the doctors who failed to follow the POCSO Act's stringent rules. The doctors are slated to face severe action.

On Wednesday evening, the medical officer at the casualty ward of Sion hospital, one of the three centres for survivors of sexual violence in the city, refused to admit the child, whose parents claimed she had been sexually assaulted. He said an FIR needed to be registered before a medical examination could ascertain their claim. This is a violation of the POSCO Act, which states that an FIR is not mandatory to initiate a medical examination or treatment.

The parents, accompanied by Sub-Inspector Rupali Gorat, were asked to head to Rajawadi Hospital. After several hours, the anxious family changed its stance. This time, the parents said that their daughter had suffered a minor injury while playing at home with her 14-year-old cousin.

While doctors at Rajawadi Hospital claimed that they couldn't conduct the examination because the parents backtracked from their complaint, police said that's not true. Officers said the doctor at Rajawadi refused to take the risk of admitting a patient referred by a tertiary care civic facility.

Cousin in remand home
After mid-day's report on April 1, Lohiya directed officials to launch a fresh investigation and asked the Shivaji Nagar police station to file an FIR. The suo moto FIR was filed the same day, with Gorat as complainant under POCSO Act rules. The police officials also took the 14-year-old cousin of the victim into custody and sent him to the Dongri remand home, after being produced in court the same day. While the assault had taken place on Wednesday, a medical examination of the child was done 72 hours later at Sion hospital.

Assistant police inspector Suresh More, the investigating officer, said their probe report has been submitted to the additional police commissioner's office, notifying him about the failure on the part of the hospital in attending to a sensitive matter. "We are awaiting instructions from our senior officials regarding action to be taken against the doctors."

Senior doctors from Sion Hospital explained the spiralling downfall of the centre, which has never failed to attend to cases under the POCSO Act. The hospital also doesn't have a nodal officer supposed to look after sexual assault cases of minors.

"The previous officer, Dr Rajesh Dhere, was removed from the post and transferred to KEM Hospital since he was due for a promotion. Sadly, the current HoD of forensic medicine is neither taking the responsibility of being the nodal officer nor is there any other forensic professor who is eligible for the post. The failure of the HoD to handle one of the busiest and most efficient nodal centres is essentially the cause of this slip-up has come to light," said a doctor. Dr Suleman Merchant, dean of the hospital, refused to comment on the issue.

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