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Updated: June 8, 2013 18:54 IST

When ICU turns into a business opportunity

Nidhi Surendranath
Comment (15)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
R. Vijayakumar is now recovering from his illness caused by negligence at the
hospital. Photo: Vipin Chandran
The Hindu R. Vijayakumar is now recovering from his illness caused by negligence at the hospital. Photo: Vipin Chandran

Kochi photographer tells a horror story

R. Vijayakumar, a former journalist and the proud father of a medical practitioner, walked into a city hospital with fever early in February this year. When he left the hospital in April, he was taken out on a stretcher, his muscles wasted, his voice silenced and the family poorer by Rs. 15 lakh.

Things started going wrong on January 31, the day his son Rahul had a freak accident at home. Rahul had bumped his head on the bed while jumping out after a nap. He was admitted to a prominent city hospital, known for its emergency care, with a minor internal injury to his head.

The doctors said Rahul was critically injured. “Steel your mind to face any eventuality,” a doctor told a distraught Vijayakumar. Though, Rahul got out of the hospital and went home healthy a week later, Vijayakumar did not expect to be a victim of the healthcare business actually tying him down to a hospital bed for close to three months.

Vijayakumar contracted fever while staying at his son’s bedside. He was worried that Rahul, an MBBS graduate, would miss his entrance examinations for a postgraduate seat. Rahul was also scheduled to start working at the same hospital in February. The stress of his son’s injury, coupled with the responsibility of managing his photography studio and household chores took a toll on Vijayakumar and his fever grew worse.

He was admitted to the same hospital four days after his son was, after he bit his tongue at night during a severe bout of chills. Vijayakumar was taken to the casualty department around midnight. The doctors administered preliminary care and Vijayakumar felt better right away.

Around 3 a.m., the doctors said he would have to be admitted. Vijayakumar resisted, saying he did not want to get admitted and that he had to take care of his son. “When he said he wanted to leave, the hospital staff pinned him down and gave him a sedative injection,” said Libu, Vijayakumar’s friend, who had taken him to the hospital.

Rahul later found that his father was sedated with Serenace, a trade name for Haloperidol, an antipsychotic drug usually used to treat patients suffering from acute delirium and psychosis.

Vijayakumar said the hospital staff would put him under sedation every time he regained consciousness. “He was always sleeping whenever I went to visit him at the ICU. We were really worried,” says Bindu, Vijayakumar’s wife.

Vijayakumar was at the hospital for 11 days, during which he developed Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS), a potentially fatal condition known to be a side effect of using Haloperidol.

The family did not inform Rahul, a trained doctor, of his father’s condition as he was still recuperating from his head injury. Doctors at the hospital said his father was mentally ill. The family took Vijayakumar to a psychiatric hospital where the doctors completely ruled out mental illness.

Vijayakumar’s psychosis was temporary and induced by his fever, which the earlier hospital had done nothing to cure. A psychiatrist stopped Vijayakumar from taking a bunch of antipsychotic drugs that the first hospital had prescribed.

The family then took Vijayakumar to another hospital for treatment. While the psychiatrist there confirmed that Vijayakumar’s psychosis was fever-induced, the neurosurgeon had other ideas. He said the 51-year-old was suffering from a rare disease called Paraneoplastic Limbic Encephalitis, a topic of special interest and research for the neurosurgeon.

From there, things went steadily downhill. Vijayakumar was treated for the disease without any evidence to prove the illness. The doctor administered IV steroids, and withdrew them suddenly when the tests came back negative.

Vijayakumar almost lost his life at this point and the family saw no option but to take him back to the first hospital, this time critically ill and near death.

His trials did not end there. He was confined to the ICU for 32 days. This time, he had severe pneumonia and had picked up several bacterial infections due to his prolonged stay at the hospital. The doctors prescribed several high-end drugs to which the bacteria causing his illness were resistant.

It is now a month and a half since Vijayakumar got out of the hospital. He has been undergoing Ayurvedic treatment and can now manage to walk a few steps without support. Rahul is prepared to fight against the rot that has entered his chosen profession.

More In: Kerala | National | Kochi | News

This is now common that patient admitted in ICU with no reason but
money, have doctors lost their sense? our profesor always tell us that
"when you diagnose a rare disease you rarely right" but cupidity for
money suppress this principle leading unnecessary treatment and problems
for patients.The greed of money taking many lives,this is wake up call
for medical profession before it is too late.

from:  dr sambhaji shinde
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 23:31 IST

Engineering, science and from my understanding medicine too does not
have strict rule books to follow. Because real life scenarios are much
more complex than simple rule books and the whole system works by
trust. Trust on practitioner's knowledge and skill. So how then do you
prove a case of negligence or corruption in a court of law ? As in my
friends case, it is very hard to prove corrupt medical practice of the
hospital in the court because the doctors are shielded by the very
system which gives them freedom to truly provide great care to the
patients. How do you penalize a corrupt doctor / hospital ??

from:  Vishnu Vijayakumar
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 20:10 IST

It is really sad to see how doctors are transforming into con artist.
I had a ear infection , visited a well known ENT specialist in
Bangalore and they found out small hole in the ear drum and suggested
surgery!! .
They said surgery is the only way to close hole . They gave a scary
picture if I don't undergo surgery. Pain was unbearable so I didn't had
choice ,so I was almost took the appointment for the operation.
It is small hospital with one senior and one junior doctors only and
doctors are available during .I was just thinking what will happen if I
develop any complications during night after surgery ??
Then I thought it is better to go to a big hospitals where they doctors
24*7 .

Then I went to Narayana hrudayalaya bangalore. There , ENT doctor said
hole is very small , there is no need of surgery and tissue will grow
and it close by itself .

See how doctors scare the people to undergo surgery .

from:  Deepa
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 18:26 IST

Traditional medicine at a reputed / recognized hospital is always good. For things of illnesses (things requiring surgery) which cannot be treated by the traditional medicine, approach the english medicine.
For my severe back pain, I visited one of the reputed orthopedic hospital and after X-ray and scan, they said nothing and prescribed pain killers. After a week, when I'm done with the prescription, the pain just came back. Now I'm 80% better with very very simple yoga exercise.
Traditional WILL work in most of the case. Approach the other only if it doesn't work.

from:  Prabakaran
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 18:23 IST

India needs a Medical Regulator which investigates complaints, conducts audits of patient records and detect substandard and spurioius drugs. If you can have regulators for the insurance and banking industry, why not the medical industry?

from:  Victor
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 17:57 IST

Another concern is the alarming number of C-Section performed for
child birth. I wonder if there are any normal births happening in
the cities. Does the health department even monitor the numbers?

from:  Sai Krishna M
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 17:43 IST

this is the rot that bites each and every hospital .even corporate
hospitals also indulge in such practices.keeping a family physician to
take care of all the family ailments is one solution to rid of this
malady.the doctors treat the patient as clients and not human beings
that needs human touch.

from:  dr.baljinder singh
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 17:38 IST

Health care like education has been transformed into a lucrative
business where money making is the ultimate goal.In private medical
colleges, at least Rs 50 lakh is given for admission; more than Rs 1
crore for post graduation ,there is no wonder why scissors are taken
out of stomach after operation and admitted patients are put to all
the tests and kept in ICU away from friends and relatives.There is a
net work of Doctors,Laboratories, Drug companies and connivance of
authorities who plunder the patients and ignorant public.What is
needed is public exposure of such hospitals, doctors, laboratories and
anti-social elements so that such occurrences get reduced.Please
disclose the name of the hospital.

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 16:11 IST

The students who study medicine in private colleges in India pay a hefty sum like 50 lacs to get admission in a medical college. For post graduation degree a person has to shell out one crore to get a seat in fields like cardiology, orthopedics etc. As soon as they become full fledged doctors, you cannot expect them to charge nominal fees and serve the common man. Even for a normal fever the doctor advises a CT scan, because he has vested interest in the scan center. This is the greatest malady in India and it is the responsibility of the Indian Medical Association to inquire whenever there are complaints against the hospitals and doctors and take prompt action to redress the grievances of the public.

from:  Nathan
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 16:03 IST

It is not just negligence on the part of the doctor and nursing home which is responsible for Vijaykumar's woes. The whole allopathic medical system has degenerated by and large. The pharmaceutical companies supply poor quality drugs. Recently Ranbaxy was fined in US because of this. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the medicines of allopathy are more like poisons and less like medicines. It is safer to find some good ayurvedic hospitals. But beware : some of the ayurvedic hospitals are also making earning their most important goal.

from:  vishwanath
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 13:44 IST

I would like to bring to the attention of the general public and perhaps initiate a
discussion on what I would like to term the I.C.U. conundrum. I am certain that many
of the reading public would have experienced in the recent past what I am about to
discuss. I would like to start off by giving a very relevant example. An 88-year-old
gentleman, who had been in deteriorating physical health over the past one year,
was admitted to a local hospital with productive cough and progressive worsening of
his mental status. He was admitted straight away into the I.C.U., where he was kept
for almost twelve days, at the end of which due to pressure from his family and
steady downhill progression of his health, he was transferred to a room, where his
loved ones could spend time with him. He died within 24 hours of the transfer,
without recognizing any of his close relatives. The family meanwhile ended up
forking out a substantial sum for the period of futile and pointless stay in the I.C.U.

from:  Vinoo Jacob
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 08:14 IST

Nidhi,

If this news is true, it becomes your responsibility to let the readers
know the name of the hospital.

from:  Nishan
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 06:39 IST

This is what we say about many hospitals here: 'come with one and we
shall send you back with many'

from:  S.BHARGAVAN
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 05:08 IST

People go to see a neurosurgeon instead of seeing their General practitioner for
headache and go to the pediatric gastroenterologist for a diarrhea in India. This is
one of the reasons they are being exploited. Keep things simple, find the best
hospital in town which is trustworthy and trust your local general practitioner, life
will be better. Unfortunately till there is a mass demonstration demanding regulation
of medical care, like the one Anna Hazare did, common people in India will continue
to suffer with substandard and dangerous treatment.

from:  Dr Kamaraj Radhakrishnan
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 03:27 IST

Health care, in the instant case, makes us feel really sad for the young Rahul and his
father. Here is a case of medical negligence, and the authorities should take appropriate
Action to prevent such incidents in future. This is the experience of a young doctor. What
Will be the position of a non medical , in the hands of such unscrupulous people?
I can illustrate the case of a patient in USA, where the doctors show all compassion to help
The patient. The patient was admitted in a private hospital for respiratory problems. After
Three days, the doctors felt that the patient should be taken to a super speciality hospital
for better treatment. The patient was airlifted and the patient's relatives were informed
about this. The doctors in the second hospital, did their best, without creating any problems
For the relatives. The particular patient died, but the relatives appreciated the role of
doctors, and praised them for their devotion, commitment and sincerity.

from:  C p Chandra das
Posted on: Jun 8, 2013 at 02:02 IST
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