The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bills unpaid, treatment stops
- Patient dies, hospital wakes up to ‘mistake’ in deny-medicine note

Calcutta, April 21: A patient died at a city hospital today, less than 24 hours after its authorities asked medical staff to stop his treatment and medicine supply as his dues had not been cleared.

Patrick Cranston, 57, passed away at 1.45 am at Mission of Mercy Hospital — formerly Assembly of God Church Hospital — in Park Street. He was admitted to the ICCU in extremely serious condition on Wednesday afternoon.

Cranston was suffering from diabetes, cardiac disorder and a host of other ailments.

Yesterday morning, the hospital authorities sent a note to the ICCU sister-in-charge, asking her to stop all services to Cranston. The reason: his treatment dues were “much higher than the stipulated norms of the hospital”.

According to the hospital’s rules, services to a patient have to be stopped if the dues run up are anything above Rs 5,000. Cranston owed the hospital Rs 24,000.

However, according to a Supreme Court judgment [Parmanand Kataria v Union of India (1989) 4 SCC 286], a private health care institution must treat an emergency patient even if he is not able to foot the bill at the moment.

The note signed by Mariamma George, assistant to medical administrator Jatrik Biswas, said: “Please stop all services and indenting medicine for bed no. ICCU 2 — Patrick Cranston from now onwards until further intimations.” A copy of the note is with The Telegraph.

A doctor said the sister-in-charge was “horrified” when she got the note. “She is a human being and cannot stop services to such an ailing patient,” the doctor said.

But with the pharmacy stopping supplies, there was little the doctors could do. As Cranston started sinking, they began gathering free medical samples and injections to revive him but to no avail.

Biswas said there had been “a mistake” in the note. “Instead of ‘all non-emergency services’, it was mistakenly written ‘all services’ in the note.”

Cranston, a former employee of Shipping Corporation of India, was a resident of Picnic Garden Road. He was brought to hospital by his niece, Andrea Walsh, who stays in the same building.

“I heard screams from his apartment and rushed in. He used to live alone and the door was ajar. I saw him frothing at his mouth and he was stiff. I immediately took him to hospital,” she said.

A doctor said Cranston had high blood sugar and was comatose when he was admitted.

“Later, we found he was suffering from meningitis. There was also a possibility of encephalitis but we could not establish it as we don’t have MRI facility and the patient wasn’t in a condition to be taken away.”

State health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said an inquiry would be started after a formal complaint was lodged.

“Earlier, we have cancelled the licence of medical institutes guilty of negligence.”

Police said the family had not lodged any formal complaint. “We are still to receive the original copy of the note…. We are not doctors, so we can’t comment,” said Ajoy Kumar, DC (south).

The hospital’s doctors have denounced the decision to stop treatment. They have threatened to quit if the hospital does not assure them such incidents will not be repeated.

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