Kolkata: A seven-year-old HIV-infected child, who was allegedly refused treatment by doctors at premier state-run Kolkata hospitals, now has a well-known US-based Indian crusader against medical negligence to support him.
Sk. Idrish Ali, father of the infected child and a poor labourer, approached the People for Better Treatment (PBT) set up here by Ohio-based Kunal Saha after government hospitals allegedly refused to perform a surgery on his son for fear of contracting HIV.
'Ali came to us seeking help to save the life of his son Maniur Rahamon who was born with thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder,' Saha told IANS from Ohio.
The boy, who hailed from the backward Sundarbans area of South 24 Parganas district, had contracted the virus from transfusion of contaminated blood.
In a letter to West Bengal Health Minister Surya Kanta Misra, Saha drew the attention of the minister to the incident of medical failure, triggering some action.
'We have got a formal complaint today (Friday) from an NGO called Human Development Institute. We will take action,' D.N. Goswami, programme officer, West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society (WBSAPCS), told IANS.
'If what is being alleged has happened then it is unfortunate and should not have happened. But we will take up the case and take necessary action. We have to see if the patient was at all in a state where an operation could be performed and whether there were logistics and facilities of extra precautions to perform the operation,' said Goswami.
'We have to ensure proper utilisation of our logistics. A paediatric HIV clinic has come up in the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital under a doctor and hopefully such cases could be referred there henceforth,' said Goswami.
Saha said: 'Although thalassemia patients are capable of leading a normal life, they require blood transfusion at regular intervals. Maniur was diagnosed with HIV in December 2005. There can be no doubt that he acquired HIV from contaminated blood as both his parents are negative for HIV.'
Maniur was advised 'spleenectomy' (removal of a part or whole spleen), which is often necessary for such patients.
'Unfortunately, doctors at the two state-run hospitals in Kolkata - SSKM Hospital and Calcutta Medical College Hospital - refused to perform his surgery as soon as they came to know about his HIV status,' Saha said.
'As a medical expert working with HIV/AIDS in the US for the past more than 15 years, there is absolutely no scientific rationale for any doctor to refuse necessary operation for an HIV patient. Maniur became a victim of HIV because of gross 'medical negligence' as he was transfused with HIV-contaminated blood,' Saha said.
'Now his life is in danger because of the baseless fear of some doctors in government hospitals. We request you to take immediate steps to save the life of this child by arranging his spleenectomy in a government hospital,' Saha wrote to the minister.
Saha has also asked for exemplary punitive measures against the errant doctors who allegedly refused to operate on Maniur and the laboratories that could have provided HIV-tainted blood.
'We also demand adequate financial compensation for this innocent child whose life has been devastated due to the dismal failure of the healthcare system failing which we must move the court of law seeking justice for this hapless child and his devastated family,' Saha said.
Kunal Saha, whose wife Anuradha died of alleged wrongful treatment in a Kolkata hospital, is fighting a huge legal battle against the medical system in India and in the course of his crusade set up PBT for people who suffer at the hands of doctors and health officials.