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How ‘ill-equipped’ private hospitals risk lives of pregnant women, unborn kids ‘for money’

Srinagar, Oct 21: Her eighth month of pregnancy, and she looked forward to delivering her first baby. But in a week, her health deteriorated.

The distraught family members began to gather in front of the doctor’s chamber at a noted private hospital in Kashmir, demanding an explanation from the consultant.

The hospital authorities had categorically told them that Shazia (name changed) has developed some “serious health complications, which they can’t deal with”.

“I had been visiting the hospital for regular check-ups for the last eight months. Last time when I visited the hospital, they performed several tests including an ultrasound,” said Shazia

Her husband, Nazir Ahmad (name changed), said every time they went for a check-up, she was asked to do more tests.

“The doctor would ask for a new test on almost every visit. After going through the reports, she reassured that the baby was healthy,” Nazir said.

However, the things turned topsy-turvy, as Shazia had begun vomiting frequently and turned feeble with each passing day.

“Her condition was such that she couldn’t even digest water. I made several rounds to the hospital and spent around Rs 50-60 thousand on the tests, but all of them yielded no result,” said Nazir.

Last week when Shazia turned mute, Nazir rushed her to the Lal Ded (LD) Hospital, the premier government-run maternity facility in the valley.

“Initially, the government hospital was reluctant to admit her and bashed me for my callousness. They accused me of taking here there when the survival chances for the child were zero. Who would tell them it was negligence on part of the private hospital?” asked Nazir.

She was diagnosed with extreme dehydration and put on several bottles of dextrose.

Another tale of medical negligence was narrated by a 24-year-old Jabeen (name changed). She also received treatment from the same doctor but was later on referred to the LD Hospital.

Two weeks prior to the delivery, Jabeen developed a searing pain in the stomach and was taken to the hospital, where she performed an ultrasound test.

“The doctors, after going through my reports, clearly told me that they had done their job and she should see a new doctor,” Jabeen said.

She was immediately rushed to the LD Hospital, where the doctors informed her that there were little chances of the baby’s survival.

“I couldn’t believe what they said. My doctor kept on telling me that my baby was perfectly healthy,” said Jabeen.

Jabeen complained that she, too, was prescribed repeated tests and “expensive” medicines.

“I spent around Rs 60,000 on the tests and medication, but I was left high and dry in the end,” she lamented.

While a huge number of private hospitals and nursing homes have mushroomed in Jammu and Kashmir over the years, most of them lack necessary facilities with the authorities failing to regulate their working.

According to the official details, 44 private hospitals and nursing homes are registered with the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir.

Officials said of these 44 private hospitals and nursing homes, only one is having a registered blood bank.

However, officials said the other hospitals were given registrations after they were affiliated with the government hospitals and allowed to procure blood from there at the time of emergency.

A senior medico at the SMHS Hospital said it was necessary for every hospital to have its own blood bank.

“If there are complications during the surgery or at the time of emergency, these hospitals most of the times shift patients to tertiary care government hospitals thus risking the lives of patients,” the medico said.

An official of health department said a team of officials inspect hospitals prior to its registration.

“Their registration is also being renewed every three years. We check their manpower, infrastructure and they also have to get the NOC from the fire services department, pollution control department, and municipal committees,” he said.

Except a few, these hospitals have no accident and emergency units, which is compulsory for every hospital, and they also lack intensive care units, ventilators and the diagnostic facilities.

Dr Shehnaz Teing, a noted gynaecologist said, “We have all the facilities here at the LD Hospital to deal with a patient who develops any complications. On the contrary, there are no blood banks, intensive care units, advanced equipment, neo-natal intensive care units within the private institutes in the valley.”

Teing said, “It’s true that there is more comfort in the private hospitals, but the safety lies within the government hospitals.”

Atul Dulloo, Principal Secretary, Health and Medical Department, refused to comment.