Who killed our collective conscience?

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Too little too late After seven-year-old Avinash Rout succumbed to dengue, his parents committed suicide
Too little too late After seven-year-old Avinash Rout succumbed to dengue, his parents committed suicide

After seven-year-old Avinash succumbed to dengue in Delhi, his parents Babita and Laxmichandra Rout committed suicide. With the entire nuclear family wiped out, there is only one big question left: Who is to be blamed for their deaths?

The incident shook the nation to its core but failed to generate even an iota of regret in the private hospitals which denied him admission. At Moolchand Medcity, Lajpat Nagar, the management had nothing to say. When TEHELKA tried to make inquiries about Avinash’s case, corporate communications manager Priyanka Kaushal said vehemently on phone: “Consider it our official statement. We don’t want to talk about the case.”

Premier hospitals of Delhi, which take pride in their foreign clientele, are well equipped to handle dengue cases. Yet five of them in a radius of 10 km failed to show sensitivity towards an innocent Class 1 student on 7 September, leading to a ninehour- long desperate quest for a bed.

It was a race against time, a race that proved futile. Laxmichandra carried his son from one hospital to another, each refusing to admit Avinash, citing ‘unavailability of beds’. Despite his father’s ability to pay — he was armed with health insurance and a credit card — Avinash, who was struggling to breathe amidst all the hullabaloo, could not be saved.

He succumbed to dengue after a struggle lasting through the night upto one in the afternoon at Batra Hospital the next day. “It’s nobody’s fault, it’s our mistake,” were the words in the suicide note his parents wrote. Unable to bear the shock of their only son’s death, they tied their hands together and jumped from a building of the government school nearby.

The horror of the incident has evoked feelings of helplessness, guilt and rage against hospitals that refused to admit him. Private hospitals give the impression that they operate beyond the constitutional and legal framework of the country. The Centre has ordered an inquiry by the Health and Family Welfare Department and the Delhi government has ordered a magisterial inquiry seeking answers from the hospitals involved. Notices have been issued to Moolchand Medcity, Akash Hospital, Max Healthcare, Saket City Hospital and Irene Hospital. TEHELKA tried to get the version of all the hospitals concerned.

Avinash was taken to Moolchand where he was given primary medication but refused admission. Around 5.30 pm, he was taken to Akash Hospital in Malviya Nagar. “The patient was brought to us in really bad shape at quarter to six. The attendants, i.e. his parents, were informed about the criticality,” says medical director Dr Ajit Gaba. The treatment went on for half an hour but Avinash was suffering from breathing problems and as the hospital didn’t have pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), his parents decided to shift him to Max Hospital.

Akash is the only hospital which administered body fluid, essential medication for such a patient to avoid dehydration. “We carried the patient (Avinash) in our ambulance to Max Healthcare, Saket. Our medical attendant accompanied the parents in the ambulance,” informed Dr Gaba. As per the neighbours and Akash Hospital’s claim, Max refused to attend to him.

Desperate to save his only son’s life, Laxmichandra, who hails from Odisha, pleaded with the medical attendant in the ambulance to take them to Saket City Hospital. “While the mother was sitting in the ambulance, our attendant and Laxmichandra went to meet the doctors. Dr Dalbir and Dr Rau came to see the patient but refused to admit him,” says Dr Gaba. This is when Avinash was shifted to a private ambulance.

The ambulance reached Irene Hospital, Kalkaji around 9 pm. Unfortunately, it was the wrong stop for Avinash, whose health had further deteriorated, as it too lacked a PICU. “We gave him the primary medication and arranged a bed at Batra Hospital. He was here for maximum 30 minutes,” informed a staffer at Irene Hospital. It was only at Batra Hospital that the treatment for dengue started.

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