Mumbai: Woman turned away by hospital in middle of anxiety attack commits suicide

Updated: Nov 14, 2018, 19:10 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

Woman had allegedly pleaded to let her meet a psychiatrist, or to be admitted to an emergency ward of Apollo hospital in Belapur, but was refused

Rochi Elenjikal was allegedly turned away by the hospital in the middle of an anxiety attack
Rochi Elenjikal was allegedly turned away by the hospital in the middle of an anxiety attack

Hours before she committed suicide, 60-year-old Rochi Lawrence Elenjikal had rushed to Apollo Hospital in Belapur in a full blown anxiety attack. But the hospital staff allegedly turned her away in her hour of need, without medicines or a chance to meet a doctor.

Last week, after more than four months, the Navi Mumbai police finally sent a report on the matter to the medical council. They are yet to lodge the family's case. Rochi's daughter, Shilpi Elenjikal, 27, has alleged that the police are dilly-dallying on the matter, and did not even bother to conduct the panchnama properly on the day of her mother's death.

Rochi's daughter Shilpi and husband Lawrence
Rochi's daughter Shilpi and husband Lawrence

What happened
Shilpi said, "On June 29, after her anxiety and depression medicines ran out, my mother went to Apollo Hospital in Belapur, where she had been treated for three years. She was facing anxiety issues and breathing problems, but the reception told us that her psychiatrist was not available.

They did not offer a consultation with an alternative doctor, which they should do in emergency cases. My father demanded that they take my mother to the emergency ward, and she even touched somebody's feet, requesting help, but the hospital staff showed no humanity. My parents went to the pharmacy, but even they refused to give medicines without a fresh prescription from the doctor."

Rochi's husband, Lawrence, recalled, "She was crying all the way home, disturbed by the hospital's insensitive behaviour. We reached home around 1.30 pm, she served me lunch and, minutes later, our neighbour informed us that Rochi had jumped from the window." By 3.09 pm, Rochi was declared dead at DY Patil Hospital.

Rochi's family said they found her suicide note a few days later, under the bed
Rochi's family said they found her suicide note a few days later, under the bed

Shoddy investigation?
Shilpi alleged that the local police did not bother to investigate the case properly. They filed an accidental death report (ADR), which is standard in such cases, but allegedly did not go upstairs to conduct the panchnama in the apartment. "The day my mother committed suicide, the officers visited the spot for panchnama, but they did not go up to our flat, where she jumped from. They left after speaking to us downstairs. I was surprised to see the kind of investigation they were doing.

"On July 5, my dad found a suicide note under mum's bed. She had written in Hindi, 'Main aaj atmahatya kar rahi kyunki Apollo waale ne pareshaan kia, dawai nahi di, isliye Apollo zimmedar hain, aur koi nahi'. We submitted a copy of the note to the police, but the officers ignored our demands for an FIR."

On being asked why they have not submitted the original copy of the suicide note despite the police demanding it officially, Shilpi said, "I have written a letter to the police station twice, with copies marked to the police commissioner and the DGP, saying I am willing to submit the original suicide note but it should be done in the presence of a DCP or ACP. I don't trust the police station as they are trying their best to safeguard the accused and Apollo hospital."

Treating doctor says
Dr Bharat Shah, the psychiatrist from Apollo Hospital who was treating Rochi, said, "She was my patient and I learnt about the incident a few days after it had happened. The family had not called me on July 29. They have my number and should have called me, I would have guided them on what to do. I do not recollect the last prescription I wrote out for her, but there is an emergency ward in the hospital that one can approach."

MMC App To Helps You 'Know Your Doctor' Better

Hospital speak
Satish M, a spokesperson for Apollo Hospital, called on behalf of the medical director, Dr Prasad Muglikar, and said, "I will speak to my seniors and we will issue a statement." Despite requesting for time, the hospital authorities did not respond to mid-day's queries.

Copspeak
Smita Jadhav, senior PI of NRI police station, said, "Their allegations that the police are delaying the FIR is baseless. We have submitted our report to the medical council, which is due process before taking action against the hospital and doctors. We are just waiting for their response."

She also denied their allegation of a shoddy probe, countering: "We checked their home as per procedure on that day, but didn't find anything. They have not even provided us the original copy of the suicide note, despite our request." Later, Satish called and said, "The hospital does not want to comment."

Health ministry informed
Shilpi also wrote to National Commission for Women (NCW), the National Human Rights Commission, and even the President, asking for help. On October 18, the NCW wrote back to the family (mid-day has a copy), informing that it had brought the matter before the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, "for taking action as deemed appropriate."

Feeling anxious?
Contact Aasra, a 24x7 suicide prevention helpline, on 022-27546669

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