With her legs crossed and hands folded, 10-year-old Shivani sits quietly on her bed at the Kamla Nehru Regional Cancer Centre’s (RCC) Jawahar ward, named after the country’s first Prime Minister.
“I want to grow up to be a doctor. I like playing the doctor and using needles (injections),” she replied to this correspondent’s query. Shivani’s father Suresh Kesharwani, mother Bimla and elder brother Rohit (17) look on anxiously.
Shivani suffers from blood cancer and has travelled to the hospital for her routine check-up. She is brought to the hospital every 28 days, to be admitted for a week to undergo treatment. However, the family has no resources left to get her admitted this time.
Shivani’s family, which belongs to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category, is yet to avail itself of the benefits of the BPL card and has already spent over Rs.3 lakh, mostly borrowed and received through donations, on her treatment.
The family says it is not receiving any support from the Kamla Nehru Memorial Hospital (KNMH), which is the hope for lakhs of people in Uttar Pradesh. Recently, the KNMH referred Shivani to the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science (SGPGI), Lucknow, the other RCC in the State.
The family alleges that the hospital simply wants to turn them away.
“We are drained financially. I haven’t been able to pay my rent. But there is no visible improvement in her condition. We have to rush her to the hospital more frequently these days as her condition gets complicated every other day,” says Suresh, a gas delivery hawker.
“Why is the KNMH an RCC when it cannot or is not equipped to treat BPL patients?” asks social worker Poonam Verma, who has been following the case. “If both the KNMH and the SGPGI have RCC status (which means they are supposed to have similar standard of facilities), then what’s the use of referring her to SGPGI? ”
Notably, a June 14 report of The Hindu mentioned how the CAG report of 2007-08 noted that free and subsidised treatment in the KNMH was provided to people with influence rather than the needy. The hospital, which is presided over by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was also receiving excess funds without putting them to use, the report added.
Also, according to an RTI query sourced by The Hindu, the KNMH received Rs.40 lakh last year under the Health Ministry’s Cancer Relief Fund.
On Shivani’s family’s claims that they had been turned away by the hospital, Dr. Paul Thailath said, “They can avail the RSBY and RAN schemes after getting their BPL status approved.” If her family wants to shift Shivani to another hospital “nobody is stopping them,” he said.
“Her’s is an acute case. In other types, with a bone marrow transplant a person can be cured up to 80 per cent. It’s difficult in her case,” he adds.
“We hear we may need Rs.6 lakh to Rs.7 lakh more for the bone marrow transplant. But doctors are not telling us anything. They do not tell us if our daughter will be cured here or should we prepare ourselves to get her treated at a private hospital. All they say is start collecting money,” says Mr. Suresh.
Rohit, the eldest of four siblings and a student of Class XI, says, “Nobody at home is able to focus on their work. I spend most of my time taking care of Shivani and visiting the hospital. Due to strong medicines, she becomes disoriented sometimes and things become stressful for everyone,” he says.
Not hopeful of any help from the hospital, her parents have made many attempts to seek aid and support. The family has written to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and other State legislators and local politicians, but has not received any help so far despite grand promises.
Mr. Suresh also urged locals to help him and placed advertisements in dailies. Besides a few personal donations, he has not received any government aid. Ms. Verma has also sent applications to the Divisional Commissioner and the District Magistrate. But no action has been taken yet.