The dead body of a 46-year-old man who ‘COVID recovered’ from the coronavirus infection but died due to blood cancer was held captive by the private hospital in Mira Road for more than 24 hours over non-payment of inflated bills, alleges family members of the deceased.
Mohammad Shariff (46) was admitted at Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road on June 22, as he was suffering from Blood Cancer. His swab was collected on June 23. On June 24, hospital authorities informed the family members that the patient is COVID-19 positive and he has to be shifted in an isolated ward.
“Though my father was asymptomatic, we doubted the report and asked for the retest. However, he was comorbidities due to cancer. So, we agreed on isolation. Doctor said to us that first his COVID treatment will be done and then for cancer,” said Shaheen Shariff, daughter of deceased.
“Nevertheless, when we forced them for retest by another lab, on June 30 Wockhardt Hospital staff informed us that my father has ‘recovered’ from the COVID-19,” added Shaheen.
He was suffering from Type III blood cancer and it was highly infectious. “During this period, they had not treated my father for the actual disease. When he was isolated, he was talking over the phone with family members. However, his condition was deteriorating day by day,” said his elder daughter.
On June 30, the hospital informed that her father’s condition is critical and they are shifting him to ICU. Since then, they were not shown or allowed to meet them with their father. “Whenever Hospital authorities had demanded money, we paid them considering our father should be saved. Hospital has drained us,” said Shaheen.
Drama after his death
On July 01 early morning, Mohammad Shariff was put on ventilator as per the family members’ information.
“The hospital charged me against the treatment of my father with a bill of Rs 2.7 lakh which I cleared. When we insisted to meet my father then they said “ki aap log discharge karakar lekar jao”.
When the family were preparing to shift him to another hospital then at the noon on July 1, he was declared dead. “Hospital staff called on my mobile phone and said ‘your father has died an hour ago. We were in the hospital premises only. They handed over an additional bill of Rs 1.6 lakh to me,” she said.
However, Shaheen doubts that her father has died on July 01. She said, “Hamare itna hungama karne ke baad ye kah rahe hai ki hamare father guzar gaye. He might have died the previous night only.”
Citing the outstanding, the hospital authorities refused to hand over the Mohammad Shariff’s dead body to the family. For more than 24 hours hospital authorities kept the dead body captive. The body was released a day later after activists interfered and citied about the circular that 80 per cent seats are capped by the state government and Municipal Corporation.
Haq Hai Activist Sadique Basha, who intervened said, “The hospital had no explanation about the bill. The COVID test comes negative, the patient dies a day later, and the bill shoots up.
However, this has raised several questions on the functioning of the corporate-run hospitals. “Civic authority should put a check on these errant hospitals. They should not just issue a circular and keep quiet on this. Patients and their family are suffering from such type of scams. You can’t imagine, the trauma in which the family members are going through during the period,” said Basha.
“After ‘Haq Hai’ intervened in the matter, the Wockhardt Hospital handed over the dead body to the family and has not collected the ‘balanced outstanding’,” said Saboor Ansari of Haq Hai.
Hospital authorities did not comment on the issue.
Five members of the family who came in contact with the deceased are waiting to be tested by the municipality as they are drained financially and cannot afford a private laboratory.
Last month, several complaints were received by the civic authority about the haywire bills by the private hospitals in the twin city on the name of PPE kits, gloves and COVID care.
“Such errant hospitals should be penalised and their licences must be terminated under Epidemic Disease Act and Disaster Management Act,” demands Saboor Ansari.
MBMC constitutes committee
Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation has constituted a 5-member committee which will review private hospitals bills before handing over to COVID patients’ relatives. “After getting lots of complaints about the irrational bills, we have formed a committee of MBMC officials. They will review the bills before handing over to patients’ relative or before the discharge ,” said Mahesh Varudkar, Additional Commissioner, MBMC.
“We have signed the MoU with the nine hospitals. Our team will vigil them. They can directly admit the patient and informed the Municipal Corporation about their reports,” said Varudkar.