Govt hospitals homes for abandoned patients

Govt hospitals turn shelter homes for abandoned patients

A photograph of Victoria Government Hospital in Bengaluru taken on April 7, 2019. (DH File Photo)

A lump that she felt in the breast got her to a hospital for screening. Later, a biopsy report confirmed what the family dreaded—a malignant tumour. 

Fathima, a 19-year-old was a mother of two and earned her living by working as a domestic maid. She had visited the hospital with her husband, an auto driver. The family was told that she would require admission and that she will be put on treatment for breast cancer.

The day of admission happened to be the last time that Fathima saw her husband. Weeks passed by and the ailing woman waited at the hospital hoping that he would return. 

The contact numbers that he had provided to the hospital staff at the time of admission remained untraceable. Letters that they sent to her in-law’s house saw no response. Fathima had to come to terms with the fact that she was abandoned. 

Months after treatment, the woman walked out of the hospital, free of the disease. She is just one such patient, for whom government hospitals have turned abandon homes.

Lack of money

For lack of money to foot their medical expenses or being unable to give them time, families of some terminally ill patients at hospitals and go untraceable later.

“Previously, we lived in joint families where elders were there to take care of. There would be someone at home to lend a helping hand. Now, with nuclear families having mostly earning members, there is little time for them,” said Dr Ramachandra, Director, Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology.

He and his team of doctors see about two to three cases a week where patients are left at the hospital,
unattended.

“When such cases are brought to our notice, we offer them free medicine. If they have manageable stages of the disease, we let them stay at Dharmashala and offer them free food,” he
explained.

Referred to NGOs

In cases where such patients are terminally ill, they are referred to non-governmental organisations that offer free facilities.

“We inform the police. Attempts are made to reach out to the family and convince them. If it fails, we request voluntary organisations to take them in. In case of death, their bodies are sent to medical college hospitals,” said Dr Ramachandra.

According to sources, such cases are seen even at Nimhans. “Either the patients’ family leaves them here because they cannot manage them at home. Or, they are cases with psychiatric illness that the police has picked up from the streets after being left out by families,” said the source. 

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