Patient held captive for a year for want of money (Lead)

October 21st, 2008 - 11:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Oct 21 (IANS) An 18-year old cardiac patient who was allegedly held captive at a government-run hospital for more than a year for not paying her bills was discharged Tuesday evening, officials said.”Salma has been discharged, although an inquiry into the case is still underway,” said A.K. Bhatt, medical superintendent of the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), where the patient was allegedly held captive.

Earlier, Uttar Pradesh health authorities initiated a probe after the girl alleged that she was held at the hospital for a year for not paying her treatment bills.

Salma had alleged that authorities at SGPGIMS not only held her captive, but did not even allow her to see the body of her brother, who died four days ago in Varanasi.

“To see this day, I have been praying for long,” an elated Salma told IANS.

“I will straightway head to my home in Varanasi, where our family owns a shop of earthen toys,” she said.

“It is quite shocking. Realising the gravity of the matter, we at once ordered an inquiry when we came to know about the girl’s allegations before a section of the local media,” director general (medical and health) I.S. Srivastava told IANS.

According to the hospital records, Salma came from Varanasi for her heart treatment in SGPGIMS in September 2007. At that time, a relative of the girl had deposited Rs.50,000 with the hospital administration.

However, the entire treatment of Salma, who had already suffered three cardiac arrests before coming to the hospital, amounted to Rs.150,000, hospital employees said.

Salma, with blocked heart valves, was under the supervision of the head of the cardio-thoracic surgery department Nirmal Gupta.

Asked about the incident, Gupta said: “I have already made my point clear to SGPGIMS medical superintendent A.K. Bhatt.”

Bhatt said: “Although nothing cannot be said before the completion of the inquiry, Gupta claimed that the girl was not discharged as none of her relatives or attendants turned up for her care.”

However, Salma’s mother R. Begum had rubbished Gupta’s claims and told the media that the “incident only exposes the callousness of the hospital administration”.

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