July 10, 2008

Cancer Patient Gets Rough Treatment

By Risha Chitlangia

NEW DELHI: Government hospitals are supposed to provide treatment free of cost to poor patients. But 20-year-old Soli Bibi, who was recently diagnosed with cancer of the uterus, says she had a terrifying experience at Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital. She was slapped and humiliated by her doctor when Soli told her that she couldn't buy medicines from outside. But things turned ugly when Soli filed a written complaint with the medical superintendent against the doctor, as within five days she was discharged from the hospital.

Soli was admitted to GTB hospital in March after she suffered a miscarriage. She was admitted in the gynaecology ward and was later diagnosed with cancer of the uterus. Since the time she was admitted in the hospital, Soli claims that her family members bought all the medicines as advised by the doctor. "All my tests were done outside and my family member used to buy the medicines. I'm very poor and can't afford the treatment. My family has taken a loan of Rs 6000 for my treatment," said Soli.

Things were fine till Soli's family was buying the medicines from outside. But on June 16, 2008, Soli was allegedly slapped and humiliated by her attending doctor after she told her that she didn't have money and can't buy the medicines from outside. "I didn't have money and couldn't afford the treatment. The doctor slapped me and said 'if you can't afford,why did you come to the hospital'," said Soli.

But her problem didn't end here. With the help of a Parivartan activist, Soli Bibi dared to file a complaint against the doctor with the medical superintendent of GTB hospital hoping for justice and better medical care.

"Soli and we (Parivartan) filed a complaint against the doctor. How can a doctor slap a patient? Everybody in the ward was witness to the incident, but no action was taken against the erring doctor. In fact, she was discharged by the same doctor within five days after we filed the complaint," said Swati Maliwal, a Parivartan activist.

Interestingly, on Soli's discharge summary states that Soli Bibi was not transferred to the Oncology ward due to non-availability of EAMCO (a combination of drugs which was forced to buy from outside) in the hospital and "the patient not affording the same from outside". On being asked about the non-availability of drugs in GTB hospital, medical superintendent, Dr PC Dixit, said, "We don't have drugs for cancer treatment, as the unit has been shifted to Delhi State Cancer Institute (which is inside the GTB campus). They are supposed to treat her." As per Soli's medical records, she has been on EMACO therapy since April 23, 08 till June 17, 08. If she could get treatment from Delhi State Cancer Institute free of cost, then why was she not referred there? "Why was she made to buy such expensive medicines from outside?" questioned Swati.

Soli's complaint was accepted on June 19 and on June 23 the same doctor discharged her. The hospital authorities have taken no action against the doctor so far. "I have forwarded Soli's complaint to the head of the department gynaecology. I'm waiting for her reply. We have to follow the procedure," said Dr Dixit. But why wasn't her case transferred to another doctor after she had complained ? Why was she asked to buy medicines from outside? Why didn't the hospital procure the medicines for her? To this Dr Dixit said, "We get so many complaints, we can't keep changing doctors. I'm looking into the matter."

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