In cases where hospitals refuse to discharge bodies, HC advocate Mohiuddin Ahmed Vaid mediates and seeks help from the police.
Hospitals can’t detain patients and bodies over non-payment of bills. Despite courts ruling time and again against errant hospitals and the Union health ministry having a draft charter of patient rights ready, heart-wrenching stories just stop at making news. One to act, though, is Bombay High Court advocate Mohiuddin Ahmed Vaid, who is a phone call away for families involved.
Since April, Vaid has helped 60 families get the bodies of their loved ones, and exemption in bills, from unyielding hospitals. Vaid, who runs Vaid & Associates in Agripada and is also the legal advisor for the Mumbai Jama Masjid Trust, said his pursuit began when a hawker from Fashion Street died within four days of being admitted to a private hospital, leaving behind an astronomical bill of Rs 80,000. Though it was later cleared by the Jama Masjid Trust, Vaid presented the hospital with the draft rules issued by the state government last year. The draft rules seek to amend the Nursing Home Registration Rules to prohibit detaining patients and bodies over procedural issues.
“Gradually, kin of deceased patients started consulting me,” said Vaid, who receives at least two phone calls every day. He said many of these families can’t afford the bills, though there are others who simply don’t pay the hospitals. “The resolution reveals itself by mediating between the hospital and the family, and by talking to the police,” he said.
Vaid came to the help of Adil Khan (name changed), a Tardeo resident, whose 61-year-old uncle was admitted to a private hospital with pneumonia but later succumbed to coronavirus. Khan said his uncle’s financial position wasn’t sound and though he (Khan) paid Rs 10.82 lakh out of Rs 15.42 lakh, the hospital wasn’t releasing the body. “With the good lawyer’s intervention, the hospital exempted the remaining amount. Else we wouldn’t have been able to perform my uncle’s last rites,” said Khan.
Vaid said that as per the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the BMC’s Disaster Management Act, bodies of people who succumbed to coronavirus shouldn’t be kept in the ward for more than 30 minutes and in the hospital for more than two hours. He said he has received a lot of cooperation from the police who have helped on humanitarian grounds. “When the police intervene, the hospital has no option but to release the body,” he said.
Dongri resident Sajil Ali’s (name changed) 47-year-old brother died due to Covid-19 after 14 days of hospitalisation. “Within three days of being shifted to the ICU, his blood pressure dropped. We got a latenight call that he had passed away,” recalled Ali, adding that he was asked to pay the outstanding bill of Rs 4.38 lakh. “We paid Rs 3.95 lakh but didn’t have any more money. However, the hospital said it would release his body only when we settle the bill,” he said. After a few phone calls between the family, Vaid and the Byculla police, Ali gave an undertaking to the hospital to pay the bill later.
Andheri MIDC resident Rohit Patil’s (name changed) 66-year-old mother is recovering from fibrosis of lungs at a private hospital, where she was admitted on June 18 with Covid-19. “She is on medication and doctors say she can only survive by the dint of her will power. The hospital says she can go home but isn’t discharging her as we have only paid the bill of Rs 5.79 lakh out of Rs 10.29 lakh,” said Patil, who is currently seeking exemption for the pending amount with help from Vaid. “I don’t charge anything from people as I feel this is the time to give back to society,” Vaid said.