SHILLONG | July 08, 2019:
Does a doctor have the right to refuse treatment to HIV positive patients? This question has come to light after it was alleged that the Shillong Civil Hospital and a premier health institution in the Northeast, NEIGRIHMS have been rejecting treatment for HIV-positive people.
The Meghalaya State Network for Positive People or MSNP has alleged that the two Government run hospitals in the State have denied to treat a woman, who has a cyst only on the ground that she was an HIV positive person.
Talking a group of reporters recently, MSNP, General Secretary Barry Leslie Kharmalki alleged that the Shillong Civil Hospital has around 13 cases of HIV positive people requiring to undergo operations for some other ailments, but were denied the operations either directly or indirectly.
He also alleged that the premiere health institution – NEIGRIHMS has also recently behaved in a discriminatory manner as far as treating a patient with a cyst and needing an operation is concerned. He said that the HoD of Gynecology department used words such as 'I don't want to dirty my operation theatre because of you'.
Kharmalki also informed that she was told to bring down her viral load below 500 while according to WHO the viral load below 1000 is considered okay for operation.
"This is a very sorry state of affairs when it's comes to the right of access of treatment for the people living with HIV," Kharmalki said.
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Informing on the case of two women who are living with HIV, he said that he has received some complaints where the two women had been discriminated and denied access to treatment based on their HIV status.
"One of the women had some a cyst problem and this was diagnosed in one of the private hospitals. She was referred to NEIGRIHMS since the treatment was too expensive. On reaching NEIGRIHMS, she revealed about her HIV status and was discriminate(ly) insulted by the doctors and tried to link her status with the operations," MSNP general secretary alleged.
Kharmalki said that the language used by the doctors in NEIGRIHMS was very harsh where they even asked her viral note report.
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"I am not very sure what is the relation between the viral note test and cyst operation..I do not think that there is any link between a viral note test of a pill HIV and the cyst operations. Her viral note is around 516 and in the prescription, the doctor mentioned that she will need to bring down the viral note to 50," he said.
While stressing on the need for the doctors to update themselves with WHO consolidated guidelines, MSNP general secretary said that the ART treatment whose viral note are below 1000 should be considered as suppress viral note. "This is a very sad state of affairs where the person has been denied treatment because of HIV status. It is wrong on the part of the doctor to say that government hospitals do not operate HIV positive people," Kharmalki said.
He however said that he had raised this issue during consultation meeting on HIV Act, 2017. "I was told by the Additional Chief Secretary, PW Ingty to submit a written complaint on this matter. Even after submitting the written complaint, so far nothing has been done to address this issue. Even the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society has not done anything to address this issue," he said.
Referring to a case of another woman, he said that the woman who has a gall bladder stone was denied operation by Civil Hospital, Shillong and NEIGRIHMS three months back.
"Now she has been living on pain killer for the past four months. The doctor in Civil Hospital told the women that they do not have the special tools to treat special people like you. This is very confusing and also very disheartening. I urged upon the NGOs to take pro-active role since a lot of people are suffering due to the attitude of the doctors in the Government hospitals," MSNP general secretary added.
When contacted, one of doctor on condition of anonymity said that there are only a few grounds on which medical professionals can refuse treatment to a patient.
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"One is when the patient refuses to follow the treatment advised by the doctor. Another is when a patient already under the care of one doctor approaches another for treatment. Such patients cannot be accepted unless they are referred by their first doctor, or they leave the care of the first doctor. Finally, a patient whose treatment is beyond the expertise of the doctor can be directed to an expert," the doctor added.
Meanwhile, when contacted the state health Minister refused to comment anything on the matter stating that such things has not come to his notice and that there are no formal complaints.