In what can only be described as any parent’s worst nightmare, Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj here refused to hand over the body of a 17-day-old child to his below poverty line parents, demanding that they clear the pending bill of Rs.3,500.
The body was released the following day, only after the area MLA intervened and told the hospital that treatment should have been done under the BPL category and should have been free.
The hospital initially could not be contacted despite repeated attempts as e-mails, phone calls and text messages sent to the administration remained unanswered. The only response received earlier in the day — one text message — from the head of the corporate communication team read: “I’m in a meeting”.
Sandeep, the father of the deceased child who is a driver and lives in Vasant Kunj, said: “We have lost four children and this was our fifth child. The child was born with a defect in the heart and was under treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Science. On Saturday, he became breathless after crying for a long time. In panic, we rushed him to Fortis Hospital. We deposited Rs.20,000 as security at the time of admission and the child was declared dead shortly.”
“When I asked them to release the body, the hospital authorities told me I had to clear the bill [Rs.3,500] first. I then told them that I had arranged the previous amount by borrowing it and did not have more money. A staff member then told me ‘the body will rot here till you arrange the money’...Who speaks like that to a father who has lost his child?”
Sandeep said he then became adamant about not paying a single penny. “My child should have been treated under the BPL category and the treatment should have been free. The hospital released the body only after the area MLA intervened.”
He added that he was talking about the incident to ensure that “nobody else suffers the way he did”.
Arun Suvarna, who is Sandeep’s employer, too reached the hospital on Sunday morning to help him.
“Sandeep told me that the hospital had refused to release the body unless the amount was paid in full [Rs.3,500]. I am a parent myself, so I rushed with the money. By then, of course, the body was released.”
“Having reached the hospital I asked about the case and wanted to know why the body wasn’t handed over. The staff got aggressive. I tried to record the conversation, asking them about the rules under which they can detain a body. The staff members snatched away my phone demanding that I delete the video if I want it back. For the record, Fortis is still holding on to my phone. All this transpired at the hospital’s reception, in the clear view of CCTV cameras. I had to finally file a complaint with the Vasant Kunj police station regarding misbehaviour by the hospital staff,” Mr. Suvarna said.
This when, he said, the corporate communications team had been trying to get him over for a meeting at the hospital. “They confined the body of a 17-day-old child for a few thousand rupees, then snatched away my cell phone. What is the guarantee that they will not harass me further? Why can’t they speak about the incident?”
Hospital denies charge
A statement sent by a Fortis Hospital spokesperson late in the evening read: “As policy, no charge is levied to provide treatment to below poverty line patients. In this case, the child was critical and admitted to the hospital as regular patient. In spite of the best efforts of our doctors, he could not be saved. The body was handed over to the family without any delay as soon as they came to collect it. All pending dues were also waived at the time. Our deepest sympathies are with the bereaved family”.
A staff member told me ‘the body will rot here till you arrange the money’...Who speaks like that to a father who has lost his child?”