28/12/2018 6:24 PM IST | Updated 28/12/2018 6:27 PM IST

How Negligence By Doctors And Health Workers Led To A Pregnant Woman Contracting HIV

The teenager whose blood was donated to the woman in Tamil Nadu attempted suicide.

Reuters/Representative image

A teenager whose HIV-infected blood was transfused to a pregnant woman in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district attempted to commit suicide on Thursday, PTI reported. The donor had tried to kill himself by consuming rat poison.

The 19-year-old boy, a resident of Ramanathapuram, was rushed to the government hospital there. He was later moved to the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai and admitted to the ICU. His condition is now stable, the dean-in-charge told The New Indian Express.

According to reports, the boy had not known he was HIV-positive when he donated blood. The woman, who is eight months pregnant with her second child, is due to deliver the baby in January.

On Friday, another woman accused Chennai’s Kilpauk Medical College of infecting her with HIV through a blood transfusion in May when she was five months pregnant, The NewsMinute reported. The hospital has denied the allegation.

In the Virudhunagar case, negligence on the part of a series of doctors and health care workers led to the situation.

How did the infected blood get transfused?

According to The  Hindu, the boy donated blood on 30 November to the blood bank at the government hospital in Sivakasi. Originally, the blood was meant to be transfused to his relative, PTI reports. But it was not used and kept stored at the bank. 

Soon after, the boy tested positive for HIV while undergoing a medical test for a job abroad. He went back to the Sivakasi hospital where a second test confirmed the same. The hospital authorities then traced the blood he had donated to the Sattur government hospital where it had been transfused to a 24-year-old pregnant woman on 3 December.

The woman was at the hospital for antenatal checks and had been advised blood transfusion as she was anaemic. 

After the woman’s case made headlines, health department officials said the blood had been negligently labelled safe by the Sivakasi hospital’s lab technicians. Three health workers of the blood bank at the Sivakasi hospital were placed under suspension.

Further inquiry found that Sivakasi hospital authorities had found that the donor was infected by HIV as early as 2016 when he had donated blood at a camp in Sattur. The teenager was out of town when a counsellor had phoned him to inform him about it. 

“His blood was then found infected with virus and was discarded. However, the officials had failed to follow up the case and inform him to pursue treatment,” Tamil Nadu health secretary J Radhakrishnan told The Indian Express.

Woman lodges complaint, husband holds protest

The woman and her husband lodged a complaint with Sattur police on 26 December seeking action against the doctors, nurses and employees of the blood bank at the Sattur hospital.

While The Hindu reported the woman was brought to the Sattur hospital for a test, in her petition, she said the hospital did not inform her that she had tested positive for HIV. “The doctors there said I would be fine and discharged me on 5 December. Again, I suffered from fever, stomach pain and diarrhoea. I went to the same Sattur GH on 17 December and gave my blood samples for test. It was confirmed that I was HIV+ but they did not inform me. Instead, they referred me to the Virudhunagar Government Hospital. It was the doctors there who confirmed that I was HIV+,” she stated. 

The woman’s husband held a protest outside the District Superintendent of Police’s office in Virudhunagar on Wednesday. He told reporters he held the Tamil Nadu government responsible for the incident and demanded that it provide the best treatment to her. He also asked that those involved in the error be punished strictly.

The woman is currently undergoing treatment at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Retests showed she had been infected with both HIV and Hepatitis B virus. Efforts are on to make sure the infection is not transferred to the baby during the woman’s delivery.

Govt response

State health secretary Radhakrishnan said the government would take care of the woman’s treatment wherever she chose to be admitted, The NewsMinute reported. He also terminated the employment of three lab technicians who directly handled the blood sample. 

“We have made arrangements for the woman to receive exclusive treatment in Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital,” Radhakrishnan told PTI. “We have assigned three doctors to specially oversee the assessment and treatment of the victim. If the family is not satisfied with the treatment in Madurai, the government is ready to arrange treatment in a private hospital also.” 

Following the initial report of the incident, the state government had ordered the screening of all stocks in blood banks the state.

NHRC, Madras High Court seek report

The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to Tamil Nadu’s Chief Secretary seeking a detailed report, including action taken against the guilty and relief and counselling provided to the victim, within four weeks.

The Madras High Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of the incident and issued notice to the health secretary seeking a status report and action taken against the errant officials by 3 January.

(With inputs from PTI)