Srinagar: A 10-year-old boy from Eidgah in Srinagar who showed symptoms of coronavirus after coming in contact with a preacher who had tested positive was turned away by four hospitals in a day, without being tested and with the advice to stay at home and “wash hands” regularly.
Jamal (named changed) finally tested positive for the virus on Tuesday and was admitted at the Sher-i -Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Jammu and Kashmir's biggest tertiary care hospital, two days after he was made to take rounds of the hospitals along with his father and turned away each time.
"I pleaded them (hospital staff) with folded hands, but nobody would listen," the boy’s father said. Now he along with the rest of the family has had to be quarantined at SKIMS.
The boy had shaken hands with a preacher during a religious congregation held from March 18 to 22, the father told News18. A few days later that preacher tested positive and Jamal, too, started showing symptoms, including a fever.
The boy was taken to the SMHS hospital in the city on March 28, but the hospital refused to test or admit him and sent shifted him to the state-run Chest Disease Hospital (CD Hospital), mentioning that he had contact with a Covid-positive patient. The boy was shifted in an ambulance the same day.
But the CD Hospital again referred him to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Hospital in Rainawari, saying that no beds are available to admit the boy. Ticket no. 48045 issued for the boy says: "Patient referred to JLNM Rainawari due to non-availability of beds."
The hospital also refused to arrange an ambulance and the boy was let go on his own. "We had to arrange a vehicle somehow and when we reached JLNM, nobody seemed to care,” said the boy’s father as the same story continued at this hospital.
Staff at JLNM told the father that only those patients who police brings from homes are admitted. “I went back to SMHS, carrying my little boy," said the father with a broken voice, unable to arrange a vehicle this time because of the lockdown.
Back at the SMHS, where the boy was brought originally, the father had to plead and cry to get his ailing son referred to SKIMS. In the referral note (ticket no.1268555), it was clearly mentioned that there is a "high possibility of Covid-19 infection."
Yet, doctors at SKIMS sent the boy back home around 7pm, the father said, with the advice that he be placed under home quarantine and “wash hands”.
The story of the family’s troubles started doing the rounds on social media, and two days later, on March 30, health department officials and the police took the boy to SKIMS and he was put under quarantine there. But this was after the boy had spent nearly two days at home. The father says that Jamal was in a separate room during this period.
On March 31, the boy tested positive for Covid-19. "My whole family and I are now in the hospital. We have been quarantined and our samples have been taken. God knows what will be the result," he said.
When contacted, the medical superintendent at SKIMS, Dr. Farooq A Jaan, denied any negligence. "SKIMS is a tertiary care hospital. Our doctors haven't done any negligence. The patient was asymptomatic and our doctor knowing about the remote contact with Covid-19 patient advised home quarantine," he said.
When asked why didn't they admit or even test the patient despite being referred by SMHS hospital as “highly possibility of Covid-19", the doctor said, "Our doctors use their own wisdom. We are a big hospital."
Although the boy had to be admitted two days later, the doctors insist they acted as per protocol. The SKIMS authorities had tried to deny that the patient was even brought there before March 30, but had to admit after News18 confronted them with hospital tickets of March 28.
The father said the boy seems determined to defeat coronavirus. "I was devastated after my son tested positive, but he came to me and said, ‘Baba, don't worry. All will be well’. A brave boy he is. This gives me strength.”