KASARGOD: She is writhing in pain in the ambulance. Her cry can be heard on this end of the phone. At 9.30 pm, they have reached Thalappady, the Karnataka- Kasaragod border. Fathima (name changed) and her husband Ashar Palackode were not on their way to a hospital in Mangaluru. They were fleeing the city. “I have called the Kasaragod district medical officer. He has arranged for administering drips in the town. She will need some painkillers too,” said Ashar. He was simultaneously speaking to The New Indian Express on the phone and unsuccessfully trying to comfort his wife.
“No one from Kerala should come to Mangaluru for treatment,” said Ashar, his morning hope dashed in five hours. Fathima was the second patient to be allowed to seek treatment in Mangaluru. Only when they reached Thalappady they were told by officials of Dakshina Kannada administration that patients from Kerala could be treated only at KS Hedge Hospital, a 1,000-bedded medical college, at Deralakatte, on the outskirts of Mangaluru and 12km from Thalappady.
Fathima had a complicated birthing in a hospital in Kanhangad. “She suffered bladder injury and the doctors there advised to remove her uterus because she was bleeding,” said Ashar. She was brought to Unity Hospital in Mangaluru, where she underwent a complicated surgery. “Now there is severe pain in her abdomen and she is bleeding,” he said. When the couple started from her house, they had fixed an appointment with their doctor in Unity.
‘We were made to wait for 1 hour before she got care’
“But her condition was so serious that we agreed to go to Hegde Hospital,” he said. They reached the hospital at 5 pm. “We were made to wait for one hour before they attended to her,” he said. The staff asked the couple to deposit Rs 25,000 and said the treatment would begin tomorrow (Thursday). After they arranged the money, Fathima was moved to the Fever Room, where all patients from Kerala would be kept. Her husband Ashar was taken to the isolation room.
“I wasn’t even given access to a toilet. The hospital even denied an extra pillow for my wife,” he said. By 8 pm, Ashar and his wife had enough and they called in an ambulance to get them back to Kerala. At 9.18 pm, when the couple had already left Hedge Hospital, TNIE called superintendent Major Dr Shiv Kumar. He is not even aware that the patient had left.
“I’m not aware of any problem. All care is being given to the patients,” he said. However, Ashar said the hospital did not even administer a drip. “The last time she had a painkiller was at 7 pm on Tuesday at a hospital in Kannur,” he said. “We decided to come to Mangaluru because the doctors there were not able to find the cause of her pain,” he said. This happened on a day when the Karnataka government conditionally opened its borders to patients from Kasaragod.
Earlier in the day, Hegde hospital sent back a dialysis patient with a splitting headache who wanted an MRI scanning to be conducted. She was cleared at the check post by Kerala’s government doctor and the medical team of the Karnataka government. By night, only one patient — a woman with heart ailment — is admitted to the hospital. All patients, irrespective of their condition, are sent to Wenlock District Hospital in Mangaluru to test for COVID-19, said a caregiver. Kasaragod MLA N A Nellikkunnu said the situation has become worse than before. “How can the Dakshina Kannada administration decide that all patients should seek treatment only at Hegde. Most of the patients from Kasaragod are follow-up patients and they have doctors who know their case history,” he said.
On Tuesday, Karnataka government conditionally lifted the ban on patients from Kasaragod after 15 days and 10 deaths. Its 10-point protocol includes they should come only in government ambulance, the ambulance should be sanitised after every trip, patients should have conditions which cannot be treated in Kasaragod, they should not have travel history, and government doctors should certify they do not have COVID symptoms.
The condition that they can be treated only at K S Hegde Hospital was added on Wednesday.