A 62-year-old security guard succumbed to brain haemorrhage three days after a chemical factory blast in Palghar critically injured him. The family of Nakhched Amarjeet Singh said he died after his family hastily shuttled in and out of four hospitals for his treatment, traversing 350 km from Maharashtra to Gujarat. Singh died in Surat’s civil hospital on Monday night. With him, the death toll in chemical factory blast in Tarapur’s Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) rose to four. Fifteen others were injured in an explosion that gutted six factories in the industrial belt. “Doctor ne hath bhi nahi lagaya, bola pehle paise deposit karo (doctor refused to touch him until we arranged for money),” alleged Singh’s daughter Reena Singh. She was asked to deposit Rs 1.5 lakh in Thunga Hospital, Mira Road, after Singh was referred from the same hospital’s Boisar facility.
In response, the hospital administration claimed it was “following protocol”. Singh, a contractual security guard for two years in Prachi Pharmaceuticals, sustained head injuries following a blast in adjacent chemical unit, Novaphene Specialties Pvt Ltd at 11.30 pm on March 8 in MIDC. Singh was suspected to have been hit by either machine parts or the wall that exploded from the factory. He was rushed to Thunga Hospital, Boisar, where he was initially admitted in the intensive care unit. Sanjeev Shetty, from hospital administration, had earlier told The Indian Express: “He will require an urgent craniotomy surgery, but we do not have specialisation here.”
Singh was shifted 86 km away to Thunga Hospital’s Mira Road facility on March 9. The family claims the hospital asked to deposit Rs 1.5 lakh before conducting the surgery. “I ran to Prachi Pharmaceutical’s manager for money. They could only provide us with Rs 50,000 at that time. We told the hospital that we will get the remaining amount later, but they were not willing to operate him,” said Rana Singh, Singh’s son-in-law.
“We are all daily labourers. How can a hospital expect us to get over a lakh of rupees within hours?” he added. When contacted, medical superintendent Dr Shyam Shinde said, “Whatever deposit was asked for during admission, it was according to hospital protocol. The patient was posted for surgery. The hospital’s reception explained the surgery requirement to patient’s family. Basic treatment was given before discharge.”
Singh required ventilator support, and suffered respiratory distress. Medical records show his oxygen levels were also low. When the hospital refused to treat him or provide an ambulance, the family tried reaching out to 108 emergency ambulance service. “Their network was jammed, we could not reach the operator,” Reena said. The family arranged for private ambulance at Rs 18,000 to Valsad civil hospital, 168 km away. By 4.30 pm, Singh was brought to Valsad civil hospital where doctors informed the family they did not have the facility to treat him. The hospital arranged for a government ambulance to Surat civil hospital. While the resident medical doctor refused to comment on medical condition, he said the patient required super-specialty and was referred to Surat civil hospital another 95 km away. According to family, Singh had slipped into a comatose condition by the time he reached Surat at 1.30 am on March 10.
“Doctors told us he suffered a brain haemorrhage. They said his condition had become so critical that immediate surgery was not possible. We were told to wait until he stabilised,” said Reena. Singh was put on ventilator support. On Monday, he was declared dead. His body was taken to Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, for final rites.
The family claims an entire day was lost in arranging for funds and referral of Singh to four hospitals. “He could have survived if Thunga hospital agreed to treat him. We felt helpless without money,” Reena said. Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) officials said while they can take action against doctors for medical negligence or denial of emergency treatment, they cannot act against hospitals under the existing Maharashtra Medical Council Act, 1965.
“We have asked government to increase MMC’s jurisdiction to corporate hospitals and medical entities. Our hands are tied whenever medical complaints against hospitals come,” said Dr Shivkumar Utture, MMC president. Palghar police spokesperson claimed a complaint against hospital will be filed once family approaches them.
Meanwhile, the Boisar police on Tuesday arrested four people, including Novaphene factory owner and employees under various IPC sections, including Section 304 A for causing death by negligence and 285 (negligent conduct with combustion material) after Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health submitted its report detailing a series of violations by the factory. Those booked are factory owner Saral Dinesh Shah, manager Hemraj Vishwanath, supervisor Nyandeep Vishwanath Mhatre and operator Raju Kashinath Raote. The factory had taken no approval for changing its manufacturing procedure from DISH. In addition, the workers appointed were untrained in handling chemical and hazardous material.