As many as 311 children and newborns have gone missing from J J Hospital, the state’s largest government hospital, since 2013, information gathered through a Right to Information (RTI) query suggests. Hospital authorities said a large number of these are patients who leave the hospital without completing discharge formalities.
In 2013, the hospital recorded 51 children missing from the paediatric or neonatal ward, which rose to 86 in 2014. In 2015, 82 children were reported missing, and in 2016, 66 children went missing. This year till May 31, 26 children have been reported missing from wards.
Worried by the high number of missing children, the J J Hospital has asked the state government for some guidelines to recover pending patient bills. “We have noticed that all these patients are taking discharge against medical advice and they leave without informing the doctors,” said Dr T P Lahane, dean at J J Hospital.
“We have asked the state about how to recover this monetary loss. Police is contacted every time,” Lahane said.
The most number of children have gone missing from the paediatric ward, while disappearances from neonatal intensive care, or ante-natal care ward have been fewer. Information gathered by RTI activist Chetan Kothari showed that from the neonatal intensive care unit, no baby had gone missing since 2013, while from paediatric intensive care unit, two babies went missing in 2013 and 2015.
Intensive care wards also have CCTV cameras, additional security and relatively more staffers to look after patients, leading to increased monitoring. The general paediatric ward, on other hand, has fewer staff posted. Since 2013, 308 children have been reported missing from these wards.
According to a health activist, while there are very few cases of theft of newborns in J J Hospital, most children go missing because their parents are unhappy and decide to leave mid-treatment. “Patients have complained against non-availability of doctors and nurses. When they feel treatment is not good, they simply walk out with their children. There is hardly anyone to stop them,” the health activist said. Dr Ashok Rathore, former head of paediatric department, said, “We noticed that when patients ran out of money, they preferred to leave silently if the baby was healthy. But we also did receive complaints of poor medical attention in wards.”
Hospital guidelines demand that the resident medical officer must be informed if a patient cannot be traced for more than two hours. In recent years, J J Hospital has installed CCTV cameras outside out patient departments, ICUs and wards to track movement of patients and their relatives. An identification mark in the form of foot print is taken of all newborns. To ensure there are no thefts of babies, the hospital demands identification proof of parents before discharging a baby.
In addition, two months ago, all government hospitals started issuing passes to patients’ relatives and have strictly monitored entry of visitors in wards.
A staffer from J J Hospital said that sometimes, they have to go looking for a child in the entire hospital. “In 2007, a team of hospital staffers and NGO workers went to a Jabalpur address to trace a critically ill boy. He had stomach infection. The parents said they were not happy with the treatment and decided to leave,” the health worker said.
According to police inspector Dilip Shinde, attached with J J police station, in such cases, a register noting is made about the incident. “We do not file FIRs as we understand these are poor patients running away from hospital after they can no longer afford treatment,” Shinde said.