Boy dies of snakebite as 3 hospitals fail to treat him

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It’s a lethal combination, to be bitten by a venomous snake and then, to your horror, realise that there is no anti-venom available to get your loved one treated. But that’s what seems to have happened in the case of young Akash.

The 16-year-old boy died as three hospitals allegedly failed to come to his aid.

Akash was sleeping at home at around 10.30 pm when a spectacled cobra slipped into his house in Kudlu off Hosur Road and latched onto his finger. The Class 10 student woke up and screamed. 

The boy’s mother Manjula woke up and saw the snake. She began pulling it by its tail, said Chikkamuniappa, a family friend who is also the School Development and Monitoring Committee president for the government high school in Kudlu. “The snake released the finger and slithered away behind some vessels,” Chikkamuniappa said, speaking for the victim’s parents, who were too distraught to talk.

The family took the boy to a private hospital by autorickshaw and a government hospital in Singasandra, where they were told that stocks of anti-venom serum (AVS) were not available. Finally, the family rushed the boy to St John’s Hospital in Koramangala. “To their shock, they were told that St John’s also lacked anti-venom medication,” Chikkamuniappa said.

Dr Sanjiv Lewin, superintendent of St John’s Hospital, rubbished the claim. “Our records show that the hospital had 41 vials of antivenom serum while the emergency pharmacy had 23 on Sunday night. We had stocks of polyvalent antivenom which can be used to treat bites of different species of snakes,” Dr Lewin said.

“However, we could not admit the patient as no ICU bed in paediatrics was available. We referred him to another hospital,” he added.

Several wildlife activists lambasted this denial of treatment. “How in the 21st century can a person be deprived of vital life-saving treatment,” asked a wildlife activist.

“The Department of Health and Family Welfare should be collecting data from all the hospitals in the city to determine the scale of the problem,” he added.

Snakebites on the rise

According to the BBMP, incidents of snake bites are on the rise in the city, predominantly in newly developed areas like R R Nagar, Nagarbhavi and J P Nagar 8th Phase. 

Prasanna Kumar A, a BBMP wildlife rescuer, said the corporation receives an average of 140 calls regarding snakes every day, and there have been a number of snakebite cases over the last 12 months.

“Not all cases are reported to the BBMP. Victoria Hospital alone gets about 4-5 bite cases a month,” Kumar said.

“Our studies also show that 60% of people bitten do not go to hospitals till complications arise,” he added.

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