In the wee hours of Wednesday, 22-year-old Anasuyamma from Karnataka’s Kolar district died while delivering a baby at a Primary Health Centre (PHC) where there were no doctors to help.
Anasuyamma, a resident of Kolar district’s Maasti village, went into labour at 12.30 am on Wednesday. Her brother Ramesh and her husband rushed her to the Maasti Primary Health Centre. Upon arriving, they realised that there was no doctor at the PHC.
“There was a nurse and she took my sister into the labour ward and told us that she would call the doctor immediately. She informed us that there was nothing to worry about before going back into the ward. But even after an hour, there was no sign of the doctor and we began to get worried,” Ramesh says.
Ramesh then went to enquire about his sister’s condition and the nurse allegedly reassured him that all was well.
“She said that the doctor was coordinating with her over the phone. I was very worried about my sister. The nurse said that there was nothing to worry and that it would be a normal delivery just like the one before. Two years ago, my sister had a baby boy at the same PHC. The nurse said that it will take a while, but all would be well,” Ramesh adds.
At around 5.45 am, Anusuyamma began screaming and her relatives, who were at the hospital, began to fear for her.
“The nurse was not allowing anyone inside the labour ward. But when we heard her scream, we demanded that we see her. My brother-in-law and I barged into the labour ward and my sister looked ready to collapse. We decided to take her to the Malur Taluk Hospital and asked the nurse to provide us with an ambulance. She just told us that the ambulance was not functional and that there was no driver either,” Ramesh says.
Ramesh then hurried out to arrange for transport. Anusuyamma and her relatives cultivate vegetables in a small plot of land in Maasti and years of consecutive drought had left them impoverished.
“We did not have enough money to pay for the taxi so I found an auto. When I got back, I saw the nurse yelling at my sister who was in pain and my brother-in-law was trying to get the nurse away from my sister. The nurse did not allow us to take our sister… she was fighting with us at a time like this. But it was too late, my sister died minutes later. This is so cruel. How can a doctor coordinate something like this on the phone? They killed my sister,” Ramesh says.
Angered and hurt by the treatment doled out to them, Anusuyamma’s family kept her body outside the PHC and sat down in protest. They said that they would not budge until the District Health Officer arrived and assured them of appropriate action.
“The DHO did not come even though we sat there till the evening. Even the doctor, Tejashwini, did not come to give us any answers. The Maasti Police came and asked us to go away. My brother-in-law got angry and shouted at the police. They then beat us with their lathis. We were the ones who lost a member of our family and they were acting like we were the ones in the wrong. This is unjust and not right,” Ramesh added.
Speaking to TNM, an officer at the Massti Police Station said that a case had been registered against Dr Tejashwini for negligence resulting in death.
“We had gone to pacify them and tell them to withdraw the protest since they had blocked the road. We told them to register a complaint and we assured them that an autopsy could tell us what exactly happened to Anasuyamma. But they were angry and emotional since they had lost her and the baby. They began throwing stones at us and we resorted to mild lathicharge. We pacified them and asked them to come with us to the station to file a complaint,” the officer added.
District Health Officer Vijay Kumar said that the PHC had only one doctor, who had finished an 18-hour shift and gone home an hour before Anusuyamma was brought in.
“There is one doctor and she had already finished an 18-hour shift. There are not many doctors who are willing to work in government hospitals, especially those in rural areas. There is a shortage of doctors and in some areas, there is one doctor for two PHCs. If we have enough doctors these instances will not happen. I know it is expected of the DHO to go to the spot but there are so many instances where the families, who are emotional, attack us and cause grievous injuries. That’s why I did not go to the spot, but I did visit them at the police station,” the DHO added.