On 31 August, a seven-year-old was brought to Fortis Memorial Institute in Gurgaon for treatment. The child was suffering Dengue Shock Syndrome, a syndrome caused by the same virus that causes dengue. It affects children under the age of 10 and is marked by bleeding, shock and abdominal pain.
The child left the hospital LAMA (Leave Against Medical Advice) after being on constant ventilator support until 14 September. The parents were asked to arrange for a private ambulance since she was leaving against medical advice. She died soon after. The family footed a bill of Rs 15 lakhs for the treatment. The case came to light when a friend of the family tweeted about the exorbitant cost.
The tweets mentioned that the hospital switched to a treatment which was seven times more expensive than the initial treatment.
The Haryana government, on Tuesday, 21 November, ordered a probe into the allegations against the hospital, soon after the state was asked by the Union Health Ministry to urgently look into the case. Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij said in Chandigarh that a senior state officer would investigate the matter.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Health Ministry asked the Haryana government to take “exemplary” action against Fortis if “overcharging, negligence or malfeasance” was established in the case of the dengue patient.
Health Secretary Preeti Sudan asked for an action taken report within two weeks, in a letter to the Principal Secretary of Haryana’s Health Department.”l request you to urgently initiate an enquiry into the whole incident,” she said in the letter.
Union health minister JP Nadda responded to a tweet expressing outrage about the medical bills handed to the family of the deceased child, Adya Singh. Adya’s father alleged that Fortis Memorial Research Institute (Gurgaon) billed them for 660 syringes and 2,700 gloves during his daughter’s 15-day hospital stay.
Meanwhile, the state health minister said on Tuesday that no hospital will be allowed to play with the health and sentiments of people. Vij added that officers have been directed to submit the investigation report at the earliest.
Adya’s father said the hospital gave them a 20-page itemised bill that amounts to Rs18 lakh.
The parents alleged that the hospital kept their daughter on a ventilator for three days though she had stopped responding to the treatment. The girl died on September 14.
As the information about this case went viral, the hospital issued a statement stating what had happened.According to the hospital, Adya was brought to Gurgaon’s Fortis Memorial Research Institute from another private hospital on the morning of August 31.
“Patient Adya Singh was admitted at FMRI on August 31 at 11:16 am with an initial diagnosis of severe dengue. At the time of admission, the child’s condition was serious and deteriorating,” the statement said.
“She was admitted with severe dengue which progressed to dengue shock syndrome and was managed on IV fluids and supportive treatment as there was a progressive fall in platelet count and hemoconcentration,” said the statement.
As her condition deteriorated, she was put on ventilator support within 48 hours, the hospital claimed.
After an MRI (brain) of the patient on September 14, her family was again explained about the critical condition of the child, after which “they took the decision to take the child on Left Against Medical Advice (LAMA) grounds”, the hospital said, adding that she succumbed the same day.
It also says that an itemised bill spread over 20 pages was handed over to the family.
“An amount of Rs 5,21,433 was paid by the insurance and the balance was to be paid by the family of the child.”
“The cost incurred was for a 15-day stay, 14-day ventilator, non-sterilised gloves, 750 pairs sterilised gloves, 43 glove pairs and approximately 40 syringes used per day,” said the hospital.
A total of 750 pairs of gloves and 600 syringes during a 15-day stay is “justifiable and acceptable” when the patient is in an ICU setting. Syringes are being misrepresented as “injections” which are very different from each other, it claimed.
Asked by reporters if he was intimated regularly about the bill through text on the mobile phone, Adya’s father Jayant Singh alleged, “Yes, I was getting the bill and one day when I asked for a break-up of it, they said, 900 gloves were used in 6-7 days. And, when I questioned that, the number of gloves was reduced.”
The episode was highlighted recently on Twitter by a friend of the girl’s father, who alleged the hospital charged a huge sum of money for the treatment, and the patient later died.
The incident revealed the sheer callousness of the medical institutes while dealing with critically ill patients and their already stressed families.