A 52-year-old woman from Kolhapur, the mother of an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) worker, died of post-Covid complications involving renal and lung failure on Friday. The ASHA worker had to sell her jewellery for her mother’s treatment as she was bounced between five private hospitals for her treatment. For hours after Mahadevi Vajantri’s death on Friday, the hospital refused to hand over the body until the family cleared the pending bill.
ASHA worker Jyoti Nandkumar contracted coronavirus in mid-August. She suspects she caught the infection during door-to-door screening. She used to wear a cotton mask as, according to her, districts officials gave her only a pair of masks in March.
On August 27 her mother, brother and grandmother also tested positive. The family was admitted in a local Covid care centre created in KIT college for 10 days and then discharged.
“She was tested for oxygen twice a day. But she used to have chest pain and no tests or treatment was done for that,” said Vajantri’s son Shivling.
The night of her discharge from the Covid centre on September 8, Vajantri developed breathing problems. A CT scan showed lung infection and pneumonia. “We took her back to Covid care centre. After three days, her health worsened. The in-charge asked us to get a sonography from a private lab and look for another hospital,” Shivling said.
Over the next 25 days, the family spent Rs 5.50 lakh on Vajantri’s treatment. Jyoti, the ASHA worker, said when their savings ran out, she started selling her jewellery. “We reached out to Kaneri primary health centre, then to my supervisor and block facilitator for help. But we did not get admission to any government hospital,” she said. She was told that as her mother required diagnostic tests, it was best to take her to a private hospital.
Vajantri was first admitted for six days in Warana hospital in Kolhapur. By then her throat swab was Covid negative. When her condition worsened Warana hospital referred her to Sai Cardiac hospital. Warana billed the family Rs 1.60 lakh. After five days in Sai Cardiac hospital with a bill amounting to Rs 1.50 lakh, she was referred back to Warana hospital after developing kidney infection. “Warana hospital charged us Rs 57,000 for an hour-long procedure to remove pus and referred her back to Sai Cardiac hospital,” Shivling said.
A few days later Vajantri was referred to Diamond hospital for dialysis; the hospital charged Rs 50,000 for it. When a second dialysis was required, and Diamond hospital had no operator, she was referred to Surya hospital which charged Rs 15,000. “Hospitals kept referring her from here to there. We got fed up, and we brought her to Sunrise hospital,” Jyoti said.
Manager Sunil Patil, from Sai Cardiac hospital, said, “We don’t have dialysis facility so we have to refer such patients to other centres. This is what perhaps happened in her case but I need to check case details.”
Calls to Diamond hospital, Surya hospital and Wanara hospital yielded no response.
Vajantri was admitted in Sunrise hospital on September 25. An official from the hospital said she was admitted as a non-Covid patient, and her renal functions were in critical condition and a lung was infected. She required intensive care support. On Friday, Vajantri succumbed to renal sepsis and respiratory failure. The hospital billed the family Rs 1.63 lakh. Jyoti said they were asked to pay the bill in full to be able to claim the body. After the family reached out to district officials, a discount of Rs 63,000 was offered on the bill by midnight.
Dr Abhijit Korani, in-charge of Sunrise hospital, said they had explained treatment cost every day to patient’s kin. “The patient required dialysis and the left lung was collapsing. I am not sure if this is post Covid infection because the patient came to us with negative report. We agreed to offer discount after commissioner intervened,” Korani said.
Vajantri’s family said she did not have renal problems before Covid infection. She, however, had diabetes.
Former civil surgeon Kempi Patil, who was transferred out of Kolhapur earlier this week, said, “The Covid care centre comes under corporation. I do not know about this case and have no comments to offer.”
Kolhapur corporation medical officer Dr Ashok Pol said they had directed Sunrise hospital to reduce the bill. “We are going to do an audit of these hospitals,” he said. But referring to the fact that the Covid care centre did not refer the patient early, Pol said the patient was from a rural area and was thus under the district rural health officer’s jurisdiction. District Health Officer Dr Yogesh Sale did not respond to calls or messages.
Manjunath Kalshetty, Kolhapur commissioner, said he would have to look into why the patient was not treated in a government hospital. “We are auditing hospitals that are treating Covid positive patients. Since the report was negative, the patient was admitted under normal rates of private hospital. But we will be looking into what went wrong in her case,” he said. Collector Daulat Desai did not respond to calls.
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