Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) in Thiruvananthapuram, the cancer specialty hospital run by the Kerala state government, had come under the scanner for alleged negligence last year. This happened after a nine-year-old girl was tested positive for HIV after undergoing blood transfusion at the centre; she died on Wednesday.
Months after this, the Cancer Centre finds itself mired in controversy, this time the allegation of medical negligence has come from a doctor himself.
In a video being circulated online, a man who introduces himself as Dr Reji Jacob, has alleged that medical negligence at RCC has resulted in the death of his wife Dr Mary.
In the video, Reji, who is a general physician based in Ras-al-Khaimah in the UAE said that his wife was admitted to the centre in September last year, after she was diagnosed with lymphoma in the spleen.
Mary passed away on March 18 and Reji alleged that trouble started when laparoscopic surgery went wrong.
"I am a doctor, my wife was also a doctor. If this has happened to us, what is the situation of ordinary people? At RCC, there are doctors who do not give value to human life. We approached Dr Chandramohan to do a laparoscopic surgery to remove the spleen, but unfortunately, the surgery was not successful. Then they finally removed it in an open surgery that lasted for about seven hours. At least 30 stitches were there on her. In the three weeks that followed, I saw that my wife was in deep pain. Despite my daughter requesting the doctor to check on my wife, he didn't turn up; he sent his juniors, but they couldn't do anything to ease her pain," said Reji.
A few days later, Reji said, they consulted another doctor in Thiruvananthapuram. The stitches were removed, following which Mary's pain subsided. The family had to go back again to RCC for chemotherapy.
"When a cancer patient is admitted, normally a central line will be used. This means, the drip is connected to a stable vein in the patient's body. This is helpful because everything from feeding and taking blood samples can be done through this one line. Doctors needn't take injections in different veins repeatedly. Every cancer institute does this and at RCC, the anesthesia department is responsible for doing it. Despite us requesting them to do so, the doctor in-charge said that a central line was not necessary," Reji said.
According to Reji, on March 14, Mary went into a semi-conscious state and when he reported it to the concerned doctor Sreejith, he was told that it due to the morphine, that had been given to ease her pain.
"Sreejith then administered morphine's antidote and told me there was nothing to worry. But this did not help Mary at all. Following this, Dr Sreejith suggested that we take an opinion of a neurologist and when consulted, the latter said that Mary was suffering from metabolic encephalopathy and had no neurological issues. He suggested that she be moved to an intensive care facility and that he wouldn't let a patient in this condition to stay in the ward. But Dr Sreejith did not think that this was necessary," Reji said in the video.
The following day, Reji said that the doctor advised him to shift his wife to another hospital, saying that she needed to undergo dialysis as her kidney functions were failing. However, when Reji took second opinion, he was told that his wife's kidney functions were not affected at all.
"We then shifted her to GG hospital and there, she got all the necessary treatment that the hospital could give. But she passed away. I am certain that the ignorance or negligence of doctors at RCC have led to my wife's death. This shouldn't happen to anyone else," he said.
The general physician based in Ras-al-Khaimah for the past seven years, Reji told TNM that doctors at RCC had delayed referring his wife to a better hospital.
"After I spoke up, RCC is coming up with explanations, trying to say that we did not cooperate with the treatment," said Reji, a native of Thiruvalla.
He said that a complaint will be filed against RCC with the Kerala State Human Rights Commission as well as a court in a few days.
Meanwhile, taking cognizance of the video, the government has ordered a probe into Reji's allegations of medical negligence. Confirming that Mary Reji was a patient at the centre, a hospital source refuted Reji's claims that the hospital had failed.
"It is true that she received treatment from the centre, but whatever negligence Reji is pointing out in the video, are purely subjective. Our doctors disagree with it and now that a probe has been ordered, let that happen," the source added.