Acid Attack Victimís Death Turns Spotlight on Poor Healthcare in Indian State

by Medindia Content Team on August 22, 2007 at 11:21 AM
Acid Attack Victimís Death Turns Spotlight on Poor Healthcare in Indian State

Hina Fathima, 26, of Mysore in the southern Indian state of India, force-fed acid by her sadistic husband died in a hospital in the state capital Bangalore.

She is survived by her three young children and grieving parents.


''He kept asking for more money and a vehicle. He threatened to shave her head. We gave a complaint, but his family reassured us that she would be safe.''

''She was with us a year ago, but one month ago, her father in law persuaded us to send her back. And then after just 20 days, he attacked her with acid and burnt her eyes with cigarettes,'' said Zabeen, Fathima's mother.

The incident highlights both the cruel acid attack cases in that state and also the condition of the healthcare in that state.

More than 60 women have been attacked with acid in Karnataka in the last few years alone. Medindia carried an-depth analysis of the issue only a few days ago.

Here we will take a look at how the common man or woman fares in a state touted an IT destination and where health tourism industry is booming like never before.

Fathima fought in vain for her life for two weeks. She hailed from Mysore, a key state in the state. She was shifted to the state capital after nearly ten days.

Now some wonder whether the absence of plastic surgery facility at the Mysore government hospital could have led to her death.

However, the doctors who treated the victim asserted that they had done everything they could to save her life and the failure to perform plastic surgery had nothing to do with her death.

She was of course shifted to Victoria Hospital in Bangalore for plastic surgery as the skin on the burnt portion of her body had started hardening. She did not have any infection and in fact she had started responding to treatment, they asserted.

But then enquiries reveal that plastic surgery could not be performed on the poor girl immediately after her admission on Aug.8. There is very much a department there, but only no surgeon.

One had retired two years ago and his successor was away attending a training course. Anyway he is expected to join duty after a year.

Conducting plastic surgery early, before the wounds healed, would help in saving the victims lives as there would be fewer complications, it is pointed out.

And even though the government-run Victoria hospital in the state capital claims it has the sate-of-the-art facilities in plastic surgery, it cannot take on too much pressure and it is always overcrowded.

Poor patients come pouring in from all over the state, but there are hardly 40 beds in the burns ward.

Shortage of doctors and nurses too is a problem. This, invariably, means a compromise on the level of care and hygiene. "We cannot turn anyone away like a private hospital," said M. Shankarappa, Head of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

There has been improvement over the past 10 years, but a great deal more needs to be done "We need an additional operation theatre with good facilities," said Dr. Shankarappa.

Another doctor, on condition of anonymity, said even the most basic surgical instruments were sometimes hard to get. They had asked for a tube to administer anaesthesia a year ago, but it was yet to come.

Sanjana of the Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAW) pointed out that one of the questions raised in a public interest litigation filed by them in the High Court was why district hospitals lacked facilities. This was also discussed in a subsequent meeting convened by Minister for Women and Child Welfare H.K. Kumaraswamy. But not much has progressed beyond assurances.

Dr. Shankarappa also underlined the need to change the recruitment policy for the public healthcare system. "People who study in government colleges move into highly paid private practice immediately. The best doctors are never available to the common man. We need legislation that makes it mandatory for students to serve in the public sector for five years."

Source: Medindia
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