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Discontented HC asks govt to compensate Thane woman for poor healthcare services

Date : 13/08/2013

A visibly dissatisfied bench of the Bombay High Court Wednesday asked the government if it is willing to monetarily compensate a Thane woman who had given birth to a stillborn due to medical negligence.

“Somebody has to go to jail. Tell us who it should be?” With these words that resonated in the courtroom of Justices A S Oka and Revati Mohite Dere, a visibly dissatisfied bench of the Bombay High Court Wednesday asked the government if it is willing to monetarily compensate a Thane woman who had given birth to a stillborn due to medical negligence and abysmal condition of government healthcare facilities.

On February 23, The Indian Express had met 21-year-old Tulsa Wagh from Maroshi village in Murbad Taluka, Thane, who had narrated her plight owing to the dismal healthcare infrastructure. Two weeks before the meeting, the pregnant woman in labour was taken to the rural hospital in Tokawade village, 14 km away from her house. She had to travel the whole rickety way in a private vehicle as repeated attempts to call to the 108 emergency ambulance services went in vain. But that was not the end of her ordeal.

Though two doctors examined her there, owing to poor infrastructure, she was referred to Ulhasnagar Central Hospital, almost 60 km away. After a back-breaking ride amid which her water broke, Tulsa reached Ulhasnagar Central Hospital, where she gave birth to a stillborn after a caesarian surgery.

Incidentally, in 2013, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed regarding the dismal condition of the rural healthcare infrastructure. Following the PIL, the high court had in September 2013 ordered that the Tokawade Public Health Centre be replaced with the Tokawade Rural Hospital by December 31, 2013.

The Indian Express’s visit in February revealed that even though the signboard has changed, services in the hospital have not been upgraded. The construction of the building was also incomplete.

This revelation resulted in the petitioner’s lawyers initiating contempt of court proceedings, that is currently being heard. The lawyers, and local activists, have come out with a fact-finding report based on Tulsa’s ordeal and the grim reality of the medical aid on offer. The report, titled ‘Denial of Maternal and Healthcare Service to Tulsa Wagh’ was presented to Justices AS Oka and Revati Mohite Dere Wednesday.

After carefully going through the report, the high court said: “Show us if there was any effort made to follow up the matter,” while asking if doctors part of the emergency 108 ambulance services were qualified enough. “Is the state willing to offer (Tulsa) ex-gratia compensation?” the high court asked while questioning the state about the officer responsible for the completion of the rural hospital.

Discontented with the government’s reply, the high court also made it clear it may direct the state’s chief secretary to appoint a senior IAS officer along with a gynecologist to look into the issue. In addition, the state will have to also inform the court about the current state of affairs of the existing medical services.

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