Srinagar: Last week when Srinagar resident Sumaiya Khan drove her younger brother to the office of the District Medical Board, little did she know that hours later she would end up carrying his lifeless body to a hospital.
She had gone to the medical board office on 17 November to get a certificate that would allow her brother, 15-year-old brother Suhaib Khan, a transcriber to write his exams.
A Class 10 student, Suhaib was suffering from acute muscular dystrophy, a medical condition that gradually weakens muscles that control movement.
The Khans’s ordeal has sparked outrage in the Valley prompting the Jammu and Kashmir administration to step in and suspend four medical board employees — three doctors and a Class IV worker.
The aspiring cardiologist
Despite 95 per cent of his muscles being affected by the condition, Suhaib had dreamt of becoming a cardiologist and took his studies very seriously, his family said.
Sumaiya told ThePrint that Suhaib was appearing for his Class 10 examinations and had already written two of them with great difficulty.
It was then, she said, that parents of his batch-mates as well as teachers informed her that she could apply for a transcriber who could help Suhaib give the exam. A transcriber writes the answers while the candidate dictates them.
“I told them that I had no idea that it could be done,” Sumaiya said. “Many parents told me that students who suffer from these conditions approach the J&K Board of School Examination that directs them to the Chief Medical Officer’s office. The office then issues a certificate granting permission to use a helper.”
On 17 November, a Tuesday, Sumaiya drove her brother from their residence in Srinagar’s Chanapora area to the District Medical Board office.
“It was extremely cold that day. I told Suhaib to wait for me in the car as I didn’t think it would take so much time,” she said. “But what happened inside the office has scarred me for my life. They have taken my brother away from me.”
‘Showed apathy and were rude’
According to Sumaiya, the staff allegedly made her wait for sometime when she entered the office at around 10 am.
After that she was informed that there was a queue and that she needed to wait for some more time. Sumaiya said she requested the staff to attend to their case first as her brother was waiting in the car, a request that was allegedly rudely rejected. When her turn did come, she was asked to bring in her brother.
“My brother had to submit his thumb impression. I requested the staff there if they could come out to the car instead of making Suhaib come inside the office,” Sumaiya said. “They refused again and were very rude to me. They told me to bring him in the wheelchair. Then I went outside and got out of the wheelchair. I took him inside but he was feeling very uneasy. It had been almost two hours since I first entered the office and perhaps Suhaib was tired.”
“When we were about to leave, he told me he was breathless. Minutes later Suhaib just became unconscious,” she added. “I begged everyone around to help me to take him to the hospital. Help me to at least to put him in the car but for 10-15 minutes no one came for help. Some people who heard my cries from outside came to help. But by the time we reached the hospital Suhaib had left us.”
The Khan family’s ordeal, however, did not end with their young son’s death. Sumaiya later called up one of the employees in the office where her brother had died a day earlier.
“I was angry and I told them that my brother had died and that I want his thumb impression back. I didn’t want anything of my brother’s to remain in that horrible place,” Sumaiya said. “Instead the person told me to come next Tuesday. I told him that I wanted it back immediately and in response the person said that the office is closed and that if it is too urgent I can break down the locker room where his documents were stored. Is humanity dead? Is there no empathy anymore. I lost a brother and this is what they had to say.”
J&K government steps in
The J&K government took cognizance of the incident and Sunday suspended three members of District Medical Board Srinagar along with a Class-IV employee whom Sumaiya had accused of being rude even after the death of her brother.
A government official said the board members who have been placed under suspension included Dr Neelofar, consultant physician at SDH Ganderbal; Dr Shuja Rashid, medical officer of the Leper Hospital and Dr Farhan Bashir, Ophthalmologist, Government Gousia Hospital, Srinagar, besides nursing orderly Ghulam Hassan.
“The sister and mother of the deceased person approached the Medical Board on November 17, 2020, and requested that the deceased be examined in the vehicle parked outside the centre due to his severe disability and lack of facilities therein in the centre,” the recommendation letter for suspension of the staffers stated. “But the deceased was not attended to and when he suffered breathlessness, the doctors rushed outside to attend to the deceased and referred him to hospital wherein he was declared brought dead and no health worker/doctor accompanied them up to hospital.”
While the staffers who allegedly were negligent have been suspended for now, for Sumaiya the government action is too little, too late.
“I don’t know what their suspension means. I just want them to at least feel guilty. I want them to realise that my brother was not a toy,” she said. “He was a small boy with dreams. He said he wanted to be a doctor, a cardiologist. The people in that horrible office need to know that a life has been extinguished. And most importantly I don’t want this to happen to someone else.” (ThePrint)