Hospital for Bhopal victims turning away critical cases

Suchandana Gupta, June 08, 2006
BHOPAL: Being a victim of the world’s worst industrial disaster, 50-year-old Mazhar Khan was entitled to free treatment in the super-speciality Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC), which is under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court.
Even though his cancer condition and lung problems worsened early this year, he was turned away six times before being finally admitted in the ICU on May 24.
Again, repeated calls to the hospital’s pulmonary department for a doctor got no response. Khan’s breathing worsened and two days later, after the hospital made an incision in his throat, he bled to death.
Mazhar Khan’s case was not an exception. Since May 23, at least eight gas victims have died because the hospital constructed at a cost of Rs 175 crore for the medical benefit of the victims had no place for them.
There are allegations that victims are being referred to other hospitals while regular patients, who pay for their treatment, are immediately attended to.
The hospital has eight mini units situated in various parts of the city. Gas patients can go to the main hospital for treatment only after the mini units have referred them. Paying patients, however, can go directly to the main hospital.
“The hospital prefers to treat paying regular patients essentially because they bring in revenue,”said Abdul Jabbar, convener of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan, a gas NGO.
“Doctors and paramedical staff get a 30% commission from payments made by non-victim patients. Hence, even doctors are more interested to treat them while gas victims are left to die.”
The hospital, however, denies the allegations saying only 2.2% of the total patients were non-victims. “Nephrology, pulmonary and neurology departments have practically shut down. A hospital for gas victims cannot be negligent about the pulmonary facilities as most patients suffer from lung diseases,”said Jabbar.

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