The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe after 18 patients died in 24 hours at the Thane Municipal Corporation-run Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial (CSMM) Hospital in Kalwa, with official saying there has been a surge in the number of patients due to the temporary shifting of Thane district hospital near the mental health hospital.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has issued a directive to set up an independent probe committee led by the commissioner of health services and comprising collector, civic chief, director of health services, an interventionist from the state-run JJ Hospital in Mumbai, and a civic surgeon.
Among the deceased, six were from Thane, four from Kalyan, three from Shahpur, and one each from Bhiwandi, Ulhasnagar, Govandi and Saki Naka, while one patient is yet to be unidentified. The 500-bed hospital is located in Thane, which is a stronghold of the CM.
According officials, there was a surge in cases at the hospital, due to the temporary relocation of Thane district hospital that is being redeveloped as a superspecialty hospital. They said many patients were rushing to Kalwa hospital, unaware of the district hospital being temporarily shifted.
“The number of patients seeking treatment for monsoon-related ailments has contributed to the already heavy caseload. The number of daily casualties has also spiked,” said hospital’s dean Dr Rakesh Barot.
The death summary chart recorded the death of a 45-year-old man at 4 pm on August 12, with the postmortem report attributing his demise to “aspiration pneumonia with convulsion”. By 10.45 pm on August 13, the 18th fatality was announced relating to an unidentified case of head injury brought by the Thane police. Most deaths happened between 3am and 4am.
Family members of the deceased, however, blamed the hospital for medical negligence, questioning the Thane corporation over just one doctor per 100 patients.
Mohammed Ansari, a family member of 33-year-old Amrin Abdulkalam Ansari from Bhiwandi, who succumbed to “performative peritonitis with septic shock”, held the hospital responsible for her demise. “She was experiencing stomach pain and vomiting for two days. We admitted her on August 12 at around 5pm. However, she was pronounced dead during the night. The hospital lacks specialised doctors and just let the patients die,” he said.
Dr Barot, however, said they have enough staff to handle 500 patients but the challenge was the 30 per cent increase in the number of patients, most of them arriving in severe condition. “They come after when their condition deteriorates 3-4 days after undergoing treatment in other hospitals. Hence survival chances decrease,” he added.
Among the deceased, one patient was suffering from a chronic kidney ailment, two had cardiac ischemia — a heart condition involving reduced blood flow and oxygen to the heart, and two had lung diseases. The remaining cases included fever, pneumonia, ulcers, and dengue. A four-year-old child had kerosene poisoning.
“The patient who died because of dengue was brought to us when her platelet count was 60,000 (normal range is 1,50,000–450,000 platelets/mcL). Even after trying our best, she died within a few hours of admission,” said Dr Barot. Data available with The Indian Express showed that she is the only patient who died on the same day of admission.
Thane Municipal Corporation commissioner Abhijit Bhangar said that over the past two months, the ICU capacity was increased from 20 to 40 beds but all were occupied. He said that many patients rush to Kalwa hospital, unaware of Thane civil hospital being shifted near the mental health hospital, he said. “In Thane civil hospital also, all the 24 ICU beds are full. We will coordinate and refer patients to the beds vacant in general wards,” he said.
The health department plans to conduct a verbal autopsy, involving interviews with the relatives of the deceased. The process aims at tracing the treatment timeline, including details about where the patients were taken earlier and their health condition upon admission at Kalwa.
As the Opposition slammed the state government over the deaths, Maharashtra Health Minister Tanaji Sawant said on Sunday that a report has been sought within two days and added that the guilty will face action. “Even though the said hospital is under the jurisdiction of the Thane Municipal Corporation, a detailed report from the Thane municipal commissioner and health officer has been sought. It does not matter if the incident has taken place in CM’s Thane or in Gadchiroli, such an incident must not take place anywhere. The responsibility lies with the state government and we have accepted the responsibility,” Sawant said.
This is not the first time that the hospital has been in poor light over inadequate health infrastructure. In March, when the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde visited the hospital, he ordered the suspension of the dean and deputy dean over poor cleanliness and other facilities.
The Opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) slammed the CM who has been in control of the TMC for more than 20 years now. Party MLA Jitendra Awhad had visited the hospital two days ago amid complaints of an increase in the number of deaths at the hospital. On Sunday, too, Awhad visited the hospital and met the families of the deceased patients.
NCP state president Jayant Patil alleged that while the CM was busy organising “Shasan Aplya Dari” programmes where government schemes are delivered at citizens’ doorsteps, “he seemed to have ignored his hometown”. “The hospital lacks medical facilities, it has no doctors, there is a shortage of staff… common people suffer and are losing their lives. The government must look into it,” said Patil.
Awhad said that the administration spent Rs 400-500 crore on painting and interiors, without improving facilities. “Are the poor meant to be dead? The administration has no shame, it is facing a shortage of staff but nobody is ready to accept the responsibility,” he said.
The NCP was joined by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which alleged that the municipal commissioner and hospital administration were responsible for the deaths. “Patients are left to die here. This must be stopped. We will seek answers from the commissioner tomorrow,” said Avinash Jadhav, Thane chief of the MNS. Jadhav said that the Kalwa hospital was facing a heavy load of patients since the civil hospital had been closed.