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‘Overbilling’: nearly Rs 16 lakh for dengue patient's treatment

The father of a girl who died of dengue at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon two months ago intends to lodge formal complaints with the Prime Minister’s Office, Union health minister and the Delhi chief minister regarding a grossly inflated bill for her hospital stay.

“Though the government is probing the matter, I am not sure how long I can wait. I have decided to write to everyone who can bring me justice,” said Jayant Singh.

The grieving parent claimed he was yet to be contacted by any investigation agency in this regard. “Fortis has not called us either, although they have been publicly issuing statements,” he said. “I, however, have spoken to other families with similar complaints.”

Singh alleged that the hospital billed him for 660 syringes and 2,700 gloves during his daughter’s 15-day hospital stay, besides prescribing expensive medicines. The 20-page itemised bill from the hospital came up to Rs 16 lakh.

Despite that, his child – seven-year-old Adya Singh – succumbed to the disease.

The matter came to light when Union health minister JP Nadda responded to a family friend’s tweet of outrage over the billing. Following that, Union health secretary Preeti Sudan asked the Haryana government to conduct an investigation and submit an action-taken report in two weeks.

Singh said Adya was referred to the medical institute after she was diagnosed with dengue. Her condition deteriorated on August 31, and she was put on ventilator a day later. While the doctors said she would be taken off life-support in 24 hours, they later expressed the desire to “wait and see”. Three to four days later, the parents were informed that there could be some brain damage. “But no CT/MRI was done, and the treatment continued,” the father said.

The girl remained on ventilator and dialysis for 15 days.

Fortis, however, said it adhered to every clinical guideline and standard medical protocol in the book while treating the patient. “Seven-year-old Adya was brought into the Fortis Memorial Research Institute (Gurgaon) from another private hospital on the morning of August 31, 2017. She was admitted with severe dengue, which progressed to dengue shock syndrome, and was managed on IV fluids and supportive treatment as there was a progressive fall in platelet count and hemoconcentration (decrease in blood plasma volume). As her condition deteriorated, she had to be put on ventilatory support within 48 hours. The family was kept informed of the critical condition of the child and the poor prognosis in these situations,” a hospital statement said.

Singh, however, remained sceptical. “When Adya passed away, we thought that at least the doctors had tried everything,” he said. “It was only after the doctors proposed a full-body plasma transplant (a procedure meant to remove, treat and return blood plasma) despite the brain damage that we began questioning the hospital’s practices. My first question was: why perform the procedure? Will it help her? With 80% brain damage, what would her life be like? The doctors said they can save the other organs.”

When the family refused and requested a discharge, they were told that they would have to leave against medical advice. Singh and his relatives reportedly had to arrange for a private ambulance because the hospital authorities said they were not liable to provide one for a patient leaving in such circumstances.

However, Adya died on the hospital premises before she could be transferred to another medical establishment. The family reportedly took the child to another hospital only to have them declare her dead on arrival.

“We had medical insurance, and I paid around Rs 10 lakh over that without even questioning them. But, after we signed the papers stating that we were leaving against medical advice, we were asked to go back and pay for the hospital gown Adya was wearing because she couldn’t fit into her clothes,” said Singh.

So, the bill listing the use of 660 syringes and 2,700 gloves in a period of 15 days came as nothing short of a shock. “We could see how outrageous this looked even though we do not come from a medical background,” the girl’s father said.



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