Millat Nagar Hospital’s dialysis centre shuts down after two patients test positive for Covid-19. Now 257 patients – all requiring dialysis twice or thrice a week – have nowhere to go
Hospitals around the city are turning them away fearing they could be carrying the virus; a few ready to help are charging up to Rs 7,000 for a single dialysis session
Fears about the Covid-19 lockdown and the sense of dread surrounding the virus making life difficult for people suffering from serious ailments requiring frequent medical attention are coming true.
After two patients registered for dialysis at Millat Nagar Hospital tested positive for coronavirus, the hospital has been shut down. This has left 257 people — most of them requiring dialysis twice or thrice a week — looking for alternative dialysis centres, which are not only much more expensive but also far from their homes.
Mumbai Mirror has written about cancer patients’ chemotherapies being postponed and HIV patients finding it difficult to access medicines, but this Millat Nagar crisis presents a more immediate danger because missing even a single dialysis can lead to a rise in toxicity in a patient’s blood with potentially fatal consequences.
A lot of patients, after they reveal they were receiving dialysis at Millat Nagar Hospital all this while, are being turned away by other hospitals or being asked to get a certificate that they are free of Covid-19 infection.
Some patients, who have now registered with Lifeline Hospital in Malad, are being charged up to Rs 7000 per dialysis session.
Add to this the cost of organising transportation when every taxi and auto-rickshaw driver is charging a premium, and the bill is back-breaking.
Out of 257 patients left in the lurch, 130 are from lower income groups. They didn’t have to pay a penny for their dialysis at Millat Nagar Hospital as the cost was covered under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana.
Gerard D’s father is now in ICU at Lifeline because of a day’s delay in getting the dialysis done. His father should have undergone dialysis on Monday but the shutting down of Millat Nagar Hospital led to a day’s delay. “I am now paying Rs 7000 for a single dialysis,” he said Aftab S, an auto-rickshaw driver from Chakala, Andheri east, spends Rs 500 on travelling to Lifeline and another Rs 6,500 for the dialysis. He said he will be soon out of a major chunk of his savings if the Millat Nagar Hospital does not reopen soon.
Millat Nagar Hospital has one of the city’s biggest dialysis centres with 48 machines. It caters to patients from Andheri, Jogeshwari, Sahar village and Malad.
Some of the patients registered here are so poor that the hospital provides them food too.
A 53-year-old mother, whose daughter is registered with the Millat Nagar Hospital, said she was given a letter by the hospital and told that other hospitals will help. “My daughter suffers from end-stage renal failure and her dialysis was scheduled for Monday. All hospitals, right up to Mira Road, turned us down. Then finally somebody told us about Lifeline Hospital,” she said.
Dr Zeba Sultan, whose uncle requires regular dialysis, said patients from Millat Nagar are being presumed Covid-19 positive. “That is why hospitals are turning them away. People will die. Somebody needs to intervene. Also, the cost of dialysis at other places is too high. These poor families can’t pay so much. They don’t have the money,” she said.
Dr Vishal Shah from Lifeline Hospital said dialysis rates have been hiked because technicians are demanding more to work. “We are charging Rs 7000 to Rs 8000. These rates will be in force till the lockdown remains in force. Otherwise we charge Rs 2000 per dialysis session,” he said.
A doctor attached to Millat Nagar Hospital said he feels so helpless. “As doctors we can only appeal to the BMC to do something to save the lives of these dialysis patients and help restart this service. We were not prepared for this crisis neither was the BMC when we learnt two dialysis patients had tested positive,” he said.
All names have been changed to protect patients’ identity.