Kerala govt. scrambles to contain fallout of child’s death due to alleged treatment denial

The three-year-old child who had swallowed a coin developed complications on Saturday evening

The Kerala government on Sunday appeared to scramble to control the potential political fallout of the death of a three-year-old child who was allegedly denied treatment in at least three government hospitals in Ernakulam and Alappuzha districts.

Health Minister K.K. Shylaja ordered an inquiry into the death of the child who perished on Saturday after an indeterminate number of days after he accidentally swallowed a coin.

Ms. Shylaja termed the child’s death as unfortunate and a tragedy that should have never occurred. She said she had sought a report from the Secretary, Health Department.

The child hailed from an impoverished family of daily wage earners who worked as domestic help and manual labourers.

The minor’s grandmother told television reporters in Kochi that the child had revealed that he swallowed a coin only on Saturday. She and her daughter took the child to the district hospital, Aluva. The doctors took an x-ray. The coin was visible in the child’s intestine. The doctors allegedly advised the parents to take the child home and said the bowel movement would expel the coin naturally.

Unsettled, the grandparent took the child to the General Hospital, Ernakulam, and later to the Medical College Hospital, Alappuzha. The doctors there reportedly told the grandparent to give the child water and plantains to provoke a bowel movement and to return after three days for surgery, if need be.

However, the child developed complications on Saturday evening and died sometime later at the District Hospital, Aluva.

Public outrage

The predicament of the child’s mother and grandparent broadcast on news television appeared to have resonated strongly among parents and families. Their plight dominated Sunday’s news coverage and provoked widespread public outrage on social media.

An array of Congress leaders, including Shanimol Usman, MLA, slammed the government for the child’s fate. She told reporters in Alappuzha that government doctors were unwilling to treat patients from containment zones and persons with non-COVID-19 conditions rarely received any attention in State-run hospitals.

Several key departments, including paediatric surgery, had ceased to function in government hospitals, she alleged.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the child had died because the public health care system had failed the family. The family could not afford to treat their ward in an expensive private hospital where doctors would have saved his life. Like most people, they had no option but to rely on government hospitals. He demanded the government compensate the child’s family and bring the doctors responsible for the death to book.

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