Kolkata: A 60-year-old woman suffering from COVID-19 died in an ambulance outside a city private hospital as she was allegedly made to wait by its authorities, who reportedly demanded that Rs three lakh be first paid for admission, her family members said on Wednesday.
The hospital authorities have refuted the charge and said that the woman’s family was given an estimate for treatment but not pressurised for making payments.
The incident triggered a political storm with the opposition parties claiming that the incident has exposed the dismal condition of the state health care services.
According to a Kolkata Police official the woman hails from Tamluk in East Midnapore district and the alleged incident took place on Monday night when she was brought to the hospital from a nursing home in the city after she tested positive and reported severe health problems.
A police complaint was lodged by her son Nazeem Khan against the hospital at Anandapur police station, he said.
The alleged incident took place a day after the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Commission allowed hospitals to charge patient parties for admission an advance of no more than Rs 50,000 or 20 per cent of the estimated treatment cost, whichever was lower but not refuse admission or treatment if the payment was not made immediately.
“The hospital authorities asked us to deposit Rs three lakh. We managed to pay Rs 80,000 and requested them to start my mother’s treatment assuring them to get the remaining amount in the meantime.
“But the hospital told us that treatment will not be started unless the full payment was made,” Khan said.
Later, Rs two lakh more was transferred to a bank account of the hospital by the woman’s elder son Latif Khan from Abu Dhabi, he said.
“But by then my mother had passed away in the ambulance … We repeatedly requested the hospital to send a doctor to her, but its authorities insisted that unless they see a proof that the money was transferred to them, nobody from it would attend to my mother,” he said.
“If they (hospital authorities) had attended to my mother on time she could have been saved,” a sobbing Khan said.
Refuting the charge, a senior official of the hospital said, The patient was brought in a very serious condition.
Doctors had tried CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in the ambulance but could not revive her.
Police said a probe into the incident is on and the hospital has been asked to provide the CCTV footage.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission for the first time started a suo moto case against the hospital in connection with the incident, a senior member of the body said.
“This is a very sad incident … an inhuman one. We have decided to start a suo moto case in this matter. This is for the first time that the Commission has done so … We will talk to the authorities of the nursing home and the hospital and try to hear the case on the next date itself,” he said.
Criticising the government, BJP MP Locket Chatterjee said, “The situation has exposed the dismal condition of the state health care services. The state government is lying that everybody is getting free treatment.
“The lies of the state government has been exposed,” BJP MP Locket Chatterjee said.
Echoing Chatterjee, CPI(M) legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty said the state government has completely failed to tackle the crisis and provide minimum health care services during the pandemic.
The ruling TMC dubbed the allegations as “politically motivated” and said the state government has taken enough steps to provide affordable and free health services to the patients.