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HYDERABAD: Minutes after three-month-old Dhruvan died at Niloufer Hospital on Monday evening, doctors who were treating the infant went into hiding. They confined themselves to a small room on first floor of the new building. Hospital superintendent Murali Krishna stayed along with them in the room, to provide moral support. They stayed there for over three hours, with police protection outside the door. They were worried of being assaulted by Dhruvan's family members.
Since the infant was admitted to the hospital, his family members have been intimidating nurses, para-medical staff and PG students, alleged hospital officials. The doctors who treated the child left the hospital premises only after Dhruvan's family took his body for postmortem to Gandhi Hospital. The commotion and panic, however, is not new to doctors at Niloufer as Dhurvan is the second child to die at the hospital in the last two months.
Earlier on March 31, 11-month-old Sahil died hours after undergoing circumcision at the hospital. In what can only be termed as a tragic irony, families of Sahil and Dhruvan are neighbours in Jiyaguda. Following Sahil's death, intense and continuous protests broke out outside Niloufer, organised by the child's family, their neighbours from Jiyaguda and political representatives. A flash protest of similar nature was held on Monday night, too, after Dhruvan was declared dead.
"It was never so extreme," recalled a senior doctor from the hospital. "If police were not there at the spot, our doctors would have definitely been beaten up. It has come to such an extent now that at times, our doctors and technicians provide assistance only when accompanied by the police," added sources in the hospital. The tension was palpable on Tuesday, as police personnel were posted at regular intervals in the hospital, guarding the entrance to the new building, ICU and superintendent's chambers.
Now, officials are feeling the presence of police or special protection force alone may not be enough to thwart future attempts to attack doctors, physically or otherwise. So, they are planning to record the counselling sessions provided to attendants of patients. This would then be used as evidence to prove that attendants were informed about the possible complications that could arise out of a treatment or surgery. The proposal is actually an old one. It was pitched when a spate of maternal deaths occurred at Niloufer.
"Doctors will explain to the attendants all the matters concerned and cameras will be placed in the room to record it," said Murali Krishna. Currently, doctors are using their mobile phones to record the process. "In fact, counselling provided to Dhruvan's family members has also been video recorded," added the superintendent. The Director of Medical Education in Telangana, meanwhile, said a request has been sent to the Health and Family Welfare department for allotment of additional SPF personnel to all teaching hospitals in the State.
"There are currently eight SPF personnel allotted to Niloufer, who work in teams of four covering two shifts. Officials have asked for seven more personnel to be allotted," said Ramesh Reddy. He added that attacks on doctors can only be prevented by building trust with patients and their attendants. "The situation is not what it used to be earlier, when doctors were treated as part of the family," he said.
Sahil's death still a mystery
One full month has passed since 11-month-old Sahil died at Niloufer following a simple circumcision, but the family is yet to get concrete answers on the cause of the tragedy. They have been relentlessly pursuing officials to find out what led to the demise of the infant, but in vain. The Nampally Police have said that they will not be relying on the inquiry report submitted by the two-member committee formed by the DME alone. They will also look into the report of Forensic Science Laboratory and ask for opinions from a medical board before proceeding with the case. Following the child's death, his mother U Sunitha lodged a complaint with police against four doctors for medical negligence.
Dhruvan died of HLH, say docs
Superintendent Murali Krishna said Dhruvan was diagnosed with a condition called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), where bone marrow fails and blood cells come down leading to infection and bleeding in internal organs. But Dhruvan's father M Mahesh had lodged a police complaint on April 18 alleging that though his son's blood group was A+, he was transfused with O+ blood. However, hospital authorities and Health Minister C Laxma Reddy claimed that transfusion of O+ blood was not the reason for death.
Delayed answer to families
While grieving families are looking for answers to the question how their children died, they have no choice but to wait for the inquiry report that will take at least 30 to 90 days to arrive. When complaints on medical negligence are lodged with Police, the body is first sent for Postmortem Examination (PME). After PME concludes, samples such as viscera are taken from deceased's body and sent to Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). After receiving report from FSL, Police write to Director of Medical Education (DME) or District Medical and Health Officer (DMHO) to form a medical committee who will give their opinion on the FSL report.