Turned Away by 4 Hospitals, 8-Month Pregnant Woman Dies in Bhopal

Negligence and apathy by 4 hospitals killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child in Bhopal.

5 min read
Turned away by 4 hospitals, an eight-month pregnant woman died.

Eight months pregnant and writhing in pain, 23-year-old Ambreen sat outside the gates of Sultania Zanana Hospital in Bhopal for three hours. She and her husband Ajaz begged the hospital guards to let them in as she faced difficulty breathing and feared for her life and that of her unborn child’s.

Ambreen had already been turned away by three other hospitals before she reached the gates of Sultania Zanana Hospital.

Turned Away by Hospitals One After Another

Ambreen and Ajaz’s ordeal began when she woke up in the morning of 26 May. The eight-month pregnant Ambreen complained of chest pain and breathing problems. Ajaz contacted the private Mansi hospital that was close to their home in the Aishbagh area for an appointment with the doctor. Upon being told by the hospital that the doctor would not be available before the evening on 26 May, Ambreen had no choice but to tolerate the unbearable pain till 7 pm when she and her husband rushed to the hospital as her condition worsened.

After conducting an electrocardiogram test (ECG) however, the doctor turned her away, having administered a painkiller.

When Ambreen’s condition further deteriorated, her husband then rushed her to JP Hospital which denied her treatment as she was displaying symptoms of COVID-19, like breathlessness. The hospital referred the couple to the Indira Gandhi Women and Children Hospital, that is run by the department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation.

The 23-year-old was rushed there in an ambulance at around 12:45 am on 27 May. The hospital administration, however, denied admission claiming there was no doctor on duty. Ajaz then rushed his wife to the Sultania Zanana hospital where she stood outside the gates for four agonising hours begging to be allowed inside before the guard finally opened the gates.

“Around 4 am, the hospital guard agreed to open the gate and we finally got admission, but it was for a short period,” said her 27-year-old husband Ajaz, who runs a tailor shop in Aishbagh area of Bhopal. The duo married in 2018.

“After admitting, the nurse gave me two blood samples and asked me to bring the Complete Blood Picture (CBP) and Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) test reports from the Hamidia Hospital. It was around 4:15 am. Hence, no one was there in the government lab. The hospital’s guard advised me to go to the private lab. I received the reports after paying Rs 1,800 there within an hour.”
Ajaz, Ambreen’s husband 

After examining the report, the doctor at the Sultania Hospital told Ajaz to take his wife to the Hamidia Government Hospital as her condition was worsening rapidly. He was also told that the unborn baby was completely fine and breathing.

A Tragic Turn of Events

At around 8:30 am on 27 May, the couple rushed to Hamidia Hospital in an ambulance where she was admitted in the ICU ward-2. Here, a nurse took Ambreen’s blood sample and conducted an X-ray. The doctor, who examined Ambreen, informed her family that she has an ‘accumulation of water’ in the chest and that is why she couldn’t breathe.

At around 1 pm, the hospital sought permission to put her on a ventilator because she was having problems breathing. But, three hours later, the hospital administration shifted her to the COVID-19 ward. “The doctor did not wait for the report and they admitted her in the COVID-19 ward,” claimed Ambreen’s mother Reshma.

“Around 6 pm, a nurse informed us that the unborn baby had died, and we will conduct the operation. Around 3 am, they handed over the body of the baby girl.”
Reshma, Ambreen’s mother 

Soon after, the family members demanded to see Ambreen, but the doctor allegedly refused. They requested to see her through a video call, but that request was declined too.

The following day, on 28 May, the hospital informed the kin that she had died. “The hospital claimed that she died at 1:30 pm, while the death certificate receipt says 10:11 am,” claimed Ajaz adding that the hospital also mentioned the wrong names in the death certificates. When we demanded that this be corrected, the staff asked for money and an affidavit.

“When we reached Hamidia, after facing denial from the four hospitals, she wasn’t so critical, both lives could be saved. But due to the negligence of the hospital, I lost my wife and child,” said Ajaz.

“I don’t know whom to complain to. They took our all documents, and denied showing us the COVID-19 test report. In a blink of eye, I lost my family, and the hospital admin lied all through.”
Ajaz, Ambreen’s husband 

Later in the day, the hospital handed over Ambreen’s body to her family who buried her in the Aishbagh Graveyard.

‘Textbook Example of Medical Negligence’

Commenting on the incident, social activist Rachna Dhigra said, “It’s a textbook example of medical negligence. It exposes the state government’s tall claims of providing better medical care. First, she was denied treatment in the middle of the night by two government hospitals. Later, she waited at the hospital gate for hours and then she and her unborn baby were killed in Hamidia.”

She further added that the questions that now need to be answered by the hospital administration are, “If she was a COVID-19 patient, as the hospital claimed and transferred her in COVID-19 ward, why did they hand over both the bodies to the kin? Besides, why did the doctor lie about her death? How did a healthy child die?” 

Rachna Dhigra pointed out that since Ambreen’s parents are victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy – the Indira Gandhi Hospital which is dedicated to those affected by the tragedy – they couldn’t be denied treatment by the hospital. In this case however, the hospital did, Dhigra claimed.

Seeking special attention from the Supreme Court’s appointed committee for Gas leak-hit patients over the issue, Dhigra said, “The Committee should take cognisance in this matter and demand a detailed report from not only Hamidia but from other hospitals.”

Bhopal Government and Hospitals React

Brushing aside the allegations raised by Ambreen’s family, the superintendent of the Indira Gandhi Woman and Child Hospital claimed that the family was lying.

“There is no evidence which proves that they came to the hospital and Hospital admin turn them down. Actually, they never came to the hospital. There is no registration. They are lying.”
Dr Sunil Gupta, superintendent, Indira Gandhi Woman and Child Hospital 

Bhopal district Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO) Dr Prabhakar Tiwari did not respond to calls despite repeated attempts.

State Health Minister Narottam Mishra said he was unaware of the incident.

“I’m not aware of this incident. But, if there is any complaint regarding negligence in a hospital, we’ll conduct an inquiry into it and take all necessary actions.”
Narottam Mishra, State Health Minister 

When contacted, the Dean of Hamidia Government Hospital, Dr Aruna Kumar said, “I’m not aware of this incident. But, since it’s serious negligence, I will ask for a report on it.”

Similarly, the Bhopal Commissioner Kavindra Kiyavat, who is a chairperson of the hospital, also claimed that he was unaware of this incident, but assured action. “I will seek a report on it,” he said.

(Kashif Kakvi is a Bhopal-based freelance journalist. He can be reached @KashifKakvi.)

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