Reported by Swetaparna Mohanty and Sankalp Mishra
Bhubaneswar, June 26:
In a u-turn, the authorities of the Kalinga Hospital, well known private medical facility here, have now decided against discharging a poor daily-wager’s 11-year old son Anjeman, who is undergoing treatment at the hospital under the Odisha State Treatment Fund (OSTF) scheme of the state government, apparently because his treatment was proving to be too expensive.
The hospital’s ‘change of heart’ follows media reports and strong protests from political and social institutions as well as the filing of a complaint with the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) by a group of lawyers against its move to discharge the boy.
However, the hospital authorities are now backing off and saying, “This is not what we had said.”
The superintendent of the hospital Dr. P.K. Mishra told reporters, “We had received a letter from the DMET department that Anjeman can be discharged and would be shifted to a government hospital. We asked his father about discharging Anjeman but he refused. Now we have decided he would be discharged only when he is perfectly fit and the Chandrasekharpur police station would be informed about his discharge.”
Earlier, the hospital had reportedly asked Anjeman’s father Ashwini Sahu to shift him to some other hospital as it was not possible for them to treat the patient any longer, The authorities had allegedly even stopped his medicines for the past one week in order to put pressure on his father to shift Anjeman from their hospital.
Desperate to save his son’s life, Ashwini, a poor daily-wager from Kandhapalli in Bolangir district, brought the matter to the attention of the media and it worked.
There was public outrage after the leading Odia daily Sambad took up his cause and published a stinging front page report on Anjeman. The report also exposed the ‘unholy alliance’ between the DMET and the private hospital authorities in the case.
Senior lawyer and member of the Odisha State Bar Council Bibhu Prasad Tripathy, Prasant Parida, Chitrasen Srichandan and Amrutanshu Dash in a complaint on Wednesday before the OHRC have sought its immediate intervention in the matter, keeping in mind the urgent nature of the case.The petitioners cited the report published in leading Odia daily Sambad on Anjeman’s plight.
The petition cited the clear order of the Supreme Court in the 1996 West Bengal Khet Mazdoor Samiti Vrs. Government of West Bengal, that if a government hospital fails to provide treatment to any individual who requires it then it will be considered as a violation of the right to life (article 21 of the Indian Constitution).
In 1998, in the Punjab State Government Vrs. Ram Lubhaya Bag case, the Supreme Court had further said in its orders that if such things happen in the case of a private hospital, it will also be considered a violation of right to life.
The petitioners further stated that under the Odisha State Treatment Fund (OSTF) scheme, it is clearly mentioned that, wherever required, the medical assistance of Rs 3 lakh can be increased further after due approval from the chief minister. Kalinga Hospital is a listed hospital with the state government under the scheme for providing treatment to poor patients. That’s the reason why Anjeman was admitted to the hospital for treatment, they said.
According to the provisions of the scheme and terms of agreement under the OSTF scheme, the concerned private hospital authorities are required to submit their bills to the DMET after a patient is discharged from the hospital, payments for which will be made within 30 days of presentation of the bills.
The petitioners have alleged that in this case it is clearly evident that an unholy nexus exists between the private hospitals and the DMET for misutilization of the OSTF corpus.
The hospital authorities threatening to discharge the patient citing that the expenses would not be reimbursed- despite the provision under the OSTF for enhancing the treatment expenses beyond the Rs 3 lakh limit – speaks of inhumanity of the highest degree, said the petitioners.
They alleged that the OSTF instead of being a help to poor patients has turned out to be a door to death for them.
The petitioners prayed for directions to save the life of the poor child through proper coordination between the state government and the hospital authorities.