Doc signed death certificate indiscriminately: Report

Deaths at Colony happened with generous help from medical staff

Doc signed death certificate indiscriminately: Report

  Inmates of the Beggars’ Colony in Bangalore. DH photo A Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Beggars Colony is being run by Karuna Trust under a PPP model with the Government. The doctor here, Dr Harimurthy has been in charge since August 2009.

During the inquiry, he escaped all scrutiny about his role in the deaths at the Colony and his explanation about the inmates’ problems not being bought to his notice was readily accepted.

The Health Centre is housed in one of the dormitories situated right in the midst of the other buildings housing the inmates. How did the authorities accept that explanation, when the overpowering stench of the place was enough to alarm anyone?

The doctor’s habit of readily signing death certificates attributing the cause to ‘natural causes’ in every case, also did not worry the authorities.

Now the inquiry report reveals that the doctor aged 50, completed his medical degree only at the age of 48 from Ambedkar Medical College and he has not furnished any certificate of his qualification.

During the time of the deaths, both Social Welfare Department and Health Department were silent about the role of the medical staff, although there was ample evidence at that juncture that the medicines stocks had expired and no register was maintained about any of the patients.

In short no medical attention was ever provided to any patient unless they were bought in by the warders, dead or otherwise. If dead, the staff were kind enough to issue a cursory death certificate.

Gross negligence

Now, the inquiry report speaks of gross negligence by the medical staff. Death certificates were signed by nurses and the pharmacist, no correlation could be found in the death records maintained by the PHC and the records maintained by the administration.

“The death report written by the doctor says that many have died due to anaemia and general weakness. Had the inmates been subjected to preliminary medical screening the doctor could have suggested proper medical care to the inmates and saved that many lives,” the report states.

Even when deaths were reported due to diarrhoea, there was no effort to send the food or water samples for testing.

According to Health Department officials, once a PPP is signed, the responsibility of hiring the staff and day to day running is the responsibility of the private partner and the Department does not involve itself, unless they receive complaints.

As of now, Karuna Trust runs 27 PHCs across the state and a total of 52 PHCs have been given over to private partners.

Report Card

Date of submission of report to the Chief Secretary:
September 23, 2010.

Reaction of the Social Welfare Department:  “The Report is under consideration.”

Some recommendations of the report:

*Criminal and disciplinary action on all those responsible for illegal and wrongful confinement of beggars

*Segregation of sick and mentally ill inmates

*Bodies without identification to be disposed by burial and not through cremation.

*Detailed inquiry regarding unaccounted dead bodies to ascertain whether organs have been traded or dead bodies have been sold.

*Probe into cases where death certificates are issued but not recorded in the death register, with focus on identity of the deceased inmate. Set up Local Relief Committees for overseeing the centre

*Restrict the role of the Central Relief Committee to state level financial administration and acting as link to govt.

*Demarcate and fence lands to prevent encroachment.

*Fill all the vacancies of posts of warders and helpers and increase the number of sweepers and cleaners to maintain hygiene.

*Digital cameras to be placed in vans to prevent wrongful arrests. Establishment of grievance redressal mechanism at the Centre.

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