In a heart-wrenching incident, Pankaj, a native of Dhampur, Uttarakhand was seen carrying his brother’s body on his back, walking to get help outside the Doon Hospital after being denied of the ambulance by the hospital administration. Reportedly, Pankaj’s brother Sonu was suffering from Tuberculosis. Pankaj, who is a fruit vendor in Dhampur, a small suburb in Bijnor district, 144 km away from Dehradun, had brought his brother for treatment at Doon Hospital on Thursday morning.
The health secretary submitted a report to Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat. The Medical Superintendent in his Report says “the family member of the deceased did not ask for a stretcher but negotiated with private ambulance operators. The family members also did not contact the hospital superintendent for the availability of ambulance”. He further adds “He further said that patient ambulances are not used for carrying dead since there is a danger of infection spreading in other patients. He said that ambulances to carry dead bodies are not available in the hospital and tender process to procure such vehicles is going on”.
In his press statement, the Chief Minister said that he has directed the DG to conduct an enquiry and submit the report in one week, to ensure that such incident does not happen again in any hospital of the state and that all the concerned officers should be alerted about the same. He also said that incident like this is not acceptable under any circumstances. He further said that in case there is any shortcoming in the system, it must be rectified.
What does the Victim say?
When The Logical Indian spoke to Pankaj, he said “I had no money to get my brother treated in a private hospital. Someone from my village advised me to take him to a hospital in Haridwar; When I reached there, I was humiliated by the staff by saying that this is not a TB hospital, take your brother somewhere else. I was helpless, and at the same time I had to ensure that my brother gets a decent treatment, a relative then advised me to take Sonu (brother) to Doon hospital as he had admitted himself to Doon hospital for treatment and got cured”.
With the hope of better treatment, Pankaj travelled to Dehradun with his ailing brother to admit him to Doon Hospital. Pankaj says “Dr Pandey, who attended us for Sonu’s check-up, said that he is critical, they would have to shift him to ICU, for which I was asked to pay 1700 rupees, but I had only 1000 rupees in my pocket. While I was speaking to a nurse for any help and looking for posters in the hospital through which I could get in touch with any officer, who could help me, my brother died”.
“I had no idea what to do then; I urged the doctor and staff to help me with an ambulance to take my brother’s body back to my home for cremation. The hospital ignoring my dire situation asked me to pay 450 rupees as hospital charges for obtaining a medical certificate. I pulled my slain brother’s body on my back and started walking outside the hospital for help, where a social worker, Vijay came to me. He said, “Please don’t worry I shall do something”. Pankaj says that he prays that such an incident “should never happen with anyone”. “If Vijay and some ambulance drivers had not helped, how would have I managed to take my brother to home for his last rites?”
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Vijay said, “I was near the general ward when a nurse in the hospital Sunita informed me that a guy is in need of help, his brother has died, and he cannot afford the ambulance charges. I told Pankaj that I would arrange an ambulance, he was panicking due to an irreparable loss. One of the Ambulance drivers Amit Thapa agreed to take Sonu’s body to his village for 3000 rupees, though according to them they charge 4000-5000. I saw some transgenders who had come for their check-up, I always believed that transgenders are very helpful. I asked them for help. Without a second thought, They immediately donated us 2000 rupees. I, then asked Satish Mishra, a constable at the police chowki to request people for some more money, I had never seen policemen begging for money to help someone. Anyhow, we arranged 4000 rupees.
Satish told The Logical Indian said that we urged everyone to contribute money for an ambulance. Some gave Rs 100 others denied. A mosque near the hospital also donated 100 rupees. We paid 3000 to the driver and gave Rs 1000 to Pankaj.
What does The Administration say?
The principal of Doon Medical College, Dr Gupta said “Pankaj had brought his brother to Doon hospital on Thursday morning for treatment. He was suffering from severe tuberculosis, and he could not survive. Primary treatment and check up were done by Dr Pandey”. On asking about the charges, he said: “These are nominal charges as per the hospital rules, as he was from Uttar Pradesh, we could not waive off the charges”. “Due to hygiene issues, ambulances are not meant for carrying the dead bodies, The staff at the reception had asked Vijay to help in this matter, and he immediately rushed to Pankaj in no time”, he added.
On asking about the steps being taken to ensure that such incident does not happen again, Dr Gupta said: “We have tendered requirement of a vehicle to send dead bodies to their home, and we hope that we shall get it in 15-20 days.”
A nurse, at Doon Hospital, Sunita, who was present there at the time of the incident, told The Logical Indian, that “we had told Pankaj that if he has not got money, then we can place his brother’s body in mortuary till the time he arranges for funds. We were about to get him a stretcher, but he picked his slain brother and walked outside the hospital. We could not arrange a hospital’s ambulance as rules do not allow us. Also, as it is in a different state, it would cost him. I immediately called Vijay, a social worker, who always helps a needy.”
What Do Others say?
We spoke to two more ambulance drivers, who preferred to stay anonymous, in their collective statement they said, “The man ( Pankaj) walked out from the hospital with his brother’s body on his back, everyone gathered to know what happened, We all are humans and understand this saddening situation, we must come together for help, we were ready to help but did not have money to fuel the ambulance for such a long distance, we joined Vijay to collect money for support. It is saddening to see that although hospital could not help the man, it does not mean that humanity has died. What media has covered till date is purely biased!”
Healthcare in Uttarakhand
This is not the first time that Doon hospital has highlighted for poor medical facilities, there have been reports in the past about the shortage of stretchers and medicine, absence of doctors at the hospital, Many believe that since the Doon hospital as become Doon Medical College, the situation has only worsened. People from far-flung hinterlands in Garhwal, Haridwar who have no other choice but to come to Doon Hospital for treatment.
In the distant villages of Uttarakhand, due to no access to roads, villagers carry patients to the nearest hospital by a wooden-made stretcher, called “Doli” in the local language. They have to travel a long distance climbing up and stepping down the hills for the treatment. In many cases, the patient dies on the way. Even sometimes the pregnant women in hills give birth to babies on the way to the hospital, and at times they die due to lack of medical aid.
The Logical Indian is deeply saddened by the plight of the unprivileged patients. We have come across many incidents where the ambulance denied taking patients’ dead body to their homes. We urge the Government of Uttarakhand to take necessary steps to ensure that such incident never takes place again. We also commend the efforts of transgenders, Vijay, police constable Satish, and everyone who came together to help Pankaj.
Also published on Medium.