Coronavirus outbreak: Kidney patient turned away by three Mumbai hospitals dies

Updated: Apr 29, 2020, 07:37 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

While the civic body rules clearly state that COVID-19 tests are not mandatory for dialysis patients, hospitals claim they are overburdened and are unable to treat everyone hence need the test done before admission

Anwari Begum; Guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra East where she had been getting dialysis. File pic
Anwari Begum; Guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra East where she had been getting dialysis. File pic

A senior citizen from Kalina, Anwari Begum, 70, died after three top hospitals in the city refused to give her dialysis without her COVID-19 test results being in, the woman's family has claimed. The test results, which arrived on Monday, returned negative.

Begum had been undergoing dialysis at Guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra East for the past one year. Her last dialysis at the hospital was on April 18, when a COVID-19 positive patient was found in the hospital. The hospital asked her to visit on April 22 — which was also the day of her next dialysis — for a COVID-19 test.

Anwari Begum's two sons (from left) Zakaria Shaikh, Haroon Shaikh and Mohammed Hasan (right ) her son-in-law
Anwari Begum's two sons (from left) Zakaria Shaikh, Haroon Shaikh and Mohammed Hasan (right ) her son-in-law

"My mother-in-law's COVID-19 test was done on Wednesday, April 22. She was also supposed to get dialysis on the same day but the hospital refused, saying they will do it only after her test results come, which was going to take 48 hours. On Thursday, she had severe pain and needed the dialysis urgently. So we went to the hospital around 4 pm but they refused as her reports were pending. We waited for over two hours at the hospital, but they did not listen," said Mohammed Hasan, Begum's son-in-law.

"After Guru Nanak, we approached Nanavati Hospital. Many other patients like us were stopped at the gate. They took her files and after two hours, enquired about her COVID-19 test report and said that they are not taking outside patients. Some from the family took her to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital around 8.30 pm and I went to look for a dialysis centre in Kalina and Sakinaka. At Kokilaben, my family was asked to finish formalities, which took two hours, but they too refused to treat her," Hasan said.

Guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra East. File pic
Guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra East. File pic

Found help, but too late
Dialysis patients all over the city have been suffering amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite guidelines from the State Health Department that do not necessitate a COVID-19 test for patients needing dialysis and only ask hospitals to take universal precautions, hospitals across the city are refusing to treat patients without the test.

Hospitals say that they are overburdened due to the closure of dialysis centres which has increased the volume of patients with kidney ailments and that they cannot accommodate every patient.

Hasan approached Axon Hospital in Sakinaka, which said that the dialysis centre is closed as their staff is unwell. "I requested them explaining the condition of my mother-in-law and pleaded with folded hands to have mercy. I also promised to pay whatever amount is required. After some time, the concerned doctor listened to me and called his dialysis staff. My mother-in-law reached the hospital around 11 pm. At 11.30 pm, the assistant doctor told me that her condition has worsened."
Begum died shortly after that. Her test results, which came on Monday, showed her negative for Coronavirus.

"The funeral was performed the next day at 10 am. Sometime later, I received a call from the person who had referred us to the nephrologist at Guru Nanak Hospital. He was apparently told by someone from the hospital that my mother tested positive. We live in a joint family and everyone panicked but no one from the hospital called us. A few days later, we got her report, which was negative," Hasan said.

According to BMC's Health Department, a COVID-19 test is not mandatory for dialysis patients. "Everyone has to take universal precautions, a COVID-19 test report is not mandatory," said Dr. Daksha Shah, BMC's deputy executive health officer.

"24 hours after sanitising the dialysis centre, the hospital can resume services as per the guidelines. If they suspect a patient to be positive, he/she can be quarantined," Dr Shah added.

'Followed task force rules'
Guru Nanak Hospital defended itself saying it was just following guidelines of the state government's task force committee, as per which, an affected dialysis centre must close for fumigation and surface cleaning. "Our dialysis centre is open 24x7. That day, a COVID-19 case was reported. As per the rules, we had to shut the dialysis centre for 24 hours, sanitise the area and quarantine the staff. Around seven workers from the dialysis centre were quarantined. They have tested negative," said Dr. Narendra Sharma, spokesperson of the hospital, who did not clearly remember on which day the case was reported.

"Dialysis patients travel through Containment Zones. Despite taking all precautions, such incidents are happening, which is the biggest challenge for us," Sharma said.

"As per my knowledge, the case was reported on Saturday. We needed the dialysis on Thursday. That makes five days. Why did Guru Nanak Hospital refuse to treat her when it is supposed to be shut only for 24 hours?" Hasan said.

Dr. Santosh Shetty, executive director and CEO, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, said, "We are not testing our existing dialysis patients. We take patients' history and screen them before every dialysis. Currently, we have nearly 200 patients on dialysis. We are following BMC and state task force's guidelines."

While the spokesperson of Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital said, "Nanavati Hospital is one of the very few quaternary care medical facilities in Mumbai to provide dialysis treatment for COVID-19 patients. Thus the high influx of patients ensures dialysis beds reserved for patients as per their COVID-19 status are occupied. However, the unavailability of a bed is immediately communicated to the patient or their family."

Apr 22
Day Anwari Begum was tested for Coronavirus

Apr 27
Day her test returned negative, four days after her death

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