Is govt also to blame for killing her?

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE -

From p1 Two med­i­cal bul­letins sched­uled at 4.30 and 6.30 had been can­celled for the first time since the pa­tient had been ad­mit­ted. This was be­cause there was no con­sen­sus on what to tell the pub­lic, ac­cord­ing to the doc­tor. “It ap­peared the med­i­cal su­per­in­ten­dent was un­der pres­sure from the government,” he says.

He also ve­he­mently de­nied re­ports that Saf­dar­jung doc­tors wanted to ac­com­pany the vic­tim to Sin­ga­pore. Dr PK Verma, in- charge of Saf­dar­jung’s ICU unit, who, along with Medanta’s Dr Yatin

Me­hta, fi­nally went in the am­bu­lance, was in fact re­luc­tant to go, he said. “We were ap­pre­hen­sive, that if some­thing hap­pens to her on the way, the Sin­ga­pore hospi­tal would not have ac­cepted a dead pa­tient.” Fi­nally, un­der im­mense government pres­sure, the med­i­cal su­per­in­ten­dent had to give a state­ment late at night af­ter the am­bu­lance left the hospi­tal, say­ing that she had been shifted abroad af­ter “med­i­cal ad­vice”.

But for a coun­try known for med­i­cal tourism, were the fa­cil­i­ties so in­ad­e­quate that she had to be trans­ferred to Sin­ga­pore? Or was the treat­ment eas­ily avail­able in In­dia?

Med­i­cal ex­perts claim that In­dia is not only equipped to han­dle mul­ti­ple or­gan trans­plants, in­clud­ing small bowel trans­plant, but can also pro­vide med­i­cal care at par to that in west­ern coun­tries. Dr K Ravin­dranath, a sur­gi­cal gas­troen­terol­o­gist and chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Global Hos­pi­tals Group, said, “In In­dia, we have the re­quired in­fra­struc­ture, and enough ex­perts who can treat such pa­tients. [ Mul­ti­ple or­gan trans­plants] is not new for us. This pa­tient did not need a trans­plant im­me­di­ately. What she needed was good crit­i­cal care, which can be given in our hos­pi­tals too.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Su­mit Ray, vice- chair­man and se­nior con­sul­tant, Crit­i­cal Care, Medicine, at Sir Ganga Ram Hospi­tal, “in this case, what the pa­tient needed at the moment was crit­i­cal care. For that, there are plenty of hos­pi­tals in Delhi- NCR which are good or even bet­ter. There was ab­so­lutely no need to take her all the way to a hospi­tal in Sin­ga­pore.”

“Be­fore shift­ing the pa­tient abroad for a trans­plant, we have to con­sider whether the pa­tient is fit for the trans­plant,” said Dr San­jay Oak, vice chan­cel­lor at the Dr DY Patil Univer­sity, Nerul, and former dean of KEM Hospi­tal.

Shock­ingly, Mt Elizabeth Hospi­tal in Sin­ga­pore is not even known for trans­plant, which would in any case be at a much later stage. Dr Sudeep Shah, con­sul­tant gas­troen­tero­log­i­cal sur­geon at Hin­duja Hospi­tal, said, “In fact, be­fore the in­fec­tion is con­trolled, there is no way that an in­testi­nal trans­plant can be done. The pa­tient can be kept on in­tra­venous sup­ply of nutri­tion for as long as a cou­ple of months till the in­fec­tion sub­sides be­fore the pos­si­bil­ity of a trans­plant can be con­sid­ered. More­over, Sin­ga­pore is not the in­ter­na­tional hub for in­testi­nal trans­plants.” The best cen­tres would be Pitts­burgh in USA and Canada, added Dr Ray.

“Mount Elizabeth Hospi­tal has not con­ducted a sin­gle suc­cess­ful in­testi­nal trans­plant till date. There was a huge risk in shift­ing her abroad when she was bat­tling se­vere in­fec­tion. A trans­plant in this case was not fea­si­ble at all,” said Dr San­jay Na­gral, se­nior gas­troin­testi­nal sur­geon at Mum­bai’s Jaslok Hospi­tal.

How­ever, Medanta’s Dr Yatin Me­hta, who had ac­com­pa­nied Pa­tient X in the am­bu­lance, told DNA. “We wouldn’t have agreed to as­sist in the trans­fer if we thought it was too late. She sur­vived in Sin­ga­pore for 48 hours. I can­not talk about what she was like as a pa­tient be­cause all I know about her is based on hearsay. When we came to Saf­dar­jung, it had al­ready been de­cided that she should be trans­ferred, we just had to help in the trans­fer,” he said.

Even the In­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion ( IMA) on Satur­day ques­tioned the government’s de­ci­sion to air­lift the vic­tim to Sin­ga­pore. Dr Vi­jay Ku­mar, pres­i­dent of the IMA, said, “It feels as if the government didn’t have faith in health­care in In­dia. We are hurt, as this move has caused peo­ple to doubt whether our hos­pi­tals lack the in­fra­struc­ture to treat such pa­tients.”

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