Prince Rajbhar case: BMC reluctant to pay compensation, says activists

Prince Rajbahar

Prince Rajbahar  


Activists say civic body fears opening floodgates to several more demands from other patients

A strong voice is being heard from across the city demanding compensation for three-month-old Prince Rajbhar, who lost his arm due to injuries caused in a fire at the KEM Hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Citizens, trusts and organisations have opened their purses for the family but the civic body is yet to take a final call.

While a proposal for compensation of ₹5 lakh will be put forward before the standing committee this week, activists say that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) reluctance to compensate stems from the fact that it may open the floodgates to demands in many more cases where patients have suffered in public hospitals.

‘Good healthcare a right’

Dr. Abhijit More, co-convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said be it patients going to public or private hospitals, good quality healthcare is a right. “If negligence in a government institution leads to death, disability or any complications, compensations should be paid,” he said, adding that the government authorities are reluctant to announce compensations because they fear an uncontrollable situation. “There are enough and more cases where the human rights commission has directed public institutions, including the BMC to pay up. Just because patients go there to get free treatment, their lives cannot be taken for granted,” Dr. More said.

Prince Rajbhar case: BMC reluctant to pay compensation, says activists

Born in Uttar Pradesh’s Mau district, Prince was detected with a congenital heart condition due to which his parents decided to bring him to Mumbai for better treatment. On November 7, an ECG cable at KEM Hospital caught fire, which caused severe burn injuries to the baby, and led to the amputation of his left arm.

A senior doctor who practices in a civic-run hospital said historically, the narrative has been that since the treatment is free, the patients in BMC hospitals don’t deserve compensation.

“Unfortunately, the civic hospitals also don’t have the fear of losing reputation as much as the private hospitals,” he said. The doctor also said though free medical care is not covered under the Consumer Protection Act, the Bombay High Court has directed BMC to pay up in the past. The BMC has no policy for compensation. After much debate, it passed a policy this year to compensate ₹1 lakh in tree fall deaths. However, for deaths related to potholes, open manholes and several other cases in which the civic body is liable for negligence, there is no immediate remedy.

In August this year, the civic body paid ₹5 lakh to the kin of those who died in a wall collapse in Malad. This was a first for the BMC.

‘₹5 lakh too little’

Prince’s father Pannelal Rajbhar said he has received financial help of over ₹1.7 lakh from various sources. “My concern is whether my child can have a normal life. I just want to ensure that,” he said. If the proposal is passed, the civic body plans to put ₹5 lakh in the bank, which the family can get when Prince turns 18.

“What will this small amount mean after nearly two decades?” asked Prince’s uncle Satiram Rajbhar.

Baby Prince continues to be on a ventilator but his oxygen support is slowly reducing, said doctors.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 10:07:17 PM |

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