NEW DELHI—A 31-year old car driver, Sandeep Kumar, had to wait for over 12 hours to claim his infant son's body, after the hospital held up release, demanding more payment. By law, Fortis Hospital, where Kumar's 16-day-old Sawant was declared dead, is obliged to treat Kumar's child for free. However he alleged that the hospital discharged the deceased child only after a local Aam Aadmi Party MLA intervened.
The hospital has however denied all charges and said "there was no delay" and Kumar's charges were waived off after he confirmed that he was a indeed a BPL (Below Poverty Line) card holder.
Kumar's case came to light after his employer, Arun Suvarna, publicized his driver's experience with Fortis Hospital on Facebook. Suvarna added that when he went to the hospital and questioned authorities on why the man was harassed, he was 'rudely asked to keep away.'
On 22 August, at around 9 pm, Kumar, who works as a driver, took his son to the hospital. Sawant, a 16-day-old boy, suffered from a birth defect in the heart valve for which he was being treated at AIIMS.
Kumar was asked to deposit Rs 18,000 before admission.
"After paying the amount, I waited for the doctor to arrive. My son was admitted in the ICU. The doctor took nearly 2 hours to come and see my son," he said. Soon after, the doctor announced that his son was dead. Kumar and his wife have already lost 4 children before.
To add to their woes, the hospital told them that they can't take the body of the child before they pay another Rs 4,000.
"I didn't have any more money with me at that point, and they refused to let me take my son's body," 31-year-old Kumar told HuffPost.
Even after repeated appeals and despite showing his BPL card, Kumar claims, he was not allowed to take his son's body.
He then called up a local Aam Aadmi Party MLA, who intervened and called the hospital. Kumar was finally allowed to take his son's body for cremation after an entire day of waiting.
“As a policy, no charge is levied to provide treatment to Below Poverty Line patients," a spokesperson from Fortis Hospital told HuffPost, "In this case, the child was critical and admitted to the hospital as a regular patient. In spite of the best efforts of our doctors he could not be saved. The body was handed over to the family without any delay as soon as they came to collect it. All pending dues were also waived at the time. Our deepest sympathies are with the bereaved family,"
In 2013, forty-three private hospitals in the capital were directed to “proactively ensure that the quantum of free treatment as directed by the courts [10 per cent indoor patients and 25 per cent of the total outdoor patients]” is provided to patients from the economically weaker sections without any qualification or reservation.
The list includes Fortis, Vasant Kunj, as it is among the establishments given government land at concessional rates and, in lieu of which, required to reserve 25 per cent of their out-patient department capacity and 10 per cent of beds for free treatment of the poor.
This isn't the first time that the hospital has been accused of flouting these rules and haseven been taken to court for non-compliance.