KASARGOD: ‘Get out, get out. Stand outside. Who sent you here?’
C A Usman and wife Farzana were shocked at how they were greeted by a staffer at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital when they said they were from Kasaragod. The couple was referred by Kannur Medical College at Pariyaram to take their 12-year-old daughter Fahma Fathima to Kozhikode Medical College. The girl suffers from a condition called Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), or high pressure of the fluid around the brain.
On April 7, Fathima had severe headache behind the eyes and brief episodes of blindness, typical symptoms of IIH. It affects just one in two lakh children, according to IIH UK. After three days at Pariyaram medical college, the family reached the Kozhikode medical college on April 11. It was 5.45 pm. “At the entrance, we said we are coming from Pariyaram, and the staff guided us to the paediatrics ward,” said Usman, who runs a mobile recharge shop.
In the paediatrics ward, Usman said the staffer jumped from her seat when he said they were coming from Kasaragod. “A doctor came in and said we should not have come here in the first place. But we did not come on our own. We were referred here,” he said.
Later, the doctors said the child could be admitted only if the caregivers stayed in isolation ward for 14 days. Usman said they had a three-year-old daughter back home and could not stay back for 14 days.
He said he was hurt at being stigmatised because Kasaragod has many COVID cases. “But Kasaragod is not the only district affected by the viral disease,” he said. Kasaragod MLA N A Nellikkunnu has taken up the matter with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “If our own state is discriminating against patients from Kasaragod, why blame Karnataka,” he wrote to the chief minister.
Twelve lives were lost in Kasaragod after Karnataka blocked ambulances from the district at the border in Talapady. The Kerala government had condemned the blockade and took the matter to the Supreme Court, following which the borders were opened for patients with strict conditions. Nellikkunnu said the chief minister should intervene and ensure the patients from the district are not discriminated against.
Usman said the next day, on April 12, he and Farzana tried to take their daughter to First Neuro in Mangaluru, but was blocked at the border. “We then sought treatment at a private hospital in Kannur,” he said. He had to shell out Rs 9,500 for a two-day stay at the hospital. “There was no scanning or test. The doctors just asked to continue with the medicine prescribed by doctors at Pariyaram Medical College,” Usman said.
Kozhikode medical college denies charge
Kozhikode medical college said it did not discriminate against patients from Kasaragod. “We have patients with brain tumour from Kasaragod admitted in the hospital,” said superintendent Dr K G Saheeth Kumar. “We have special wards to admit patients from Covid-related areas. We have patients even from Bengaluru,” he said. When asked about Fathima’s experience, he said it was not brought to his notice. “We will look into it if they send a complaint mentioning their date of arrival,” he said.