The family of a seven-year-old girl who died in September while undergoing treatment for dengue fever at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon, India has been handed a bill of 1.8m Indian rupees (£20,952, $27,771) for the 15-day hospital stay.
The 20-page itemised bill from the hospital included charges for the treatment, expensive medicines, 660 syringes and 2,700 gloves, Hindustan Times newspaper reported.
The case came to light after a friend of the deceased girl's father disclosed the incident on Twitter, stating the irrelevant charges the family was asked to pay. The tweet sparked an outrage on social media and was retweeted by some 10,000 users who condemned the hospital's act, according to Hindustan Times.
India's Union health minister JP Nadda also responded to the tweet and was outraged about the billing. "We will take all the necessary actions," the minister said on Twitter, asking the victim family to hand him details of the case. It was not clear if any action was taken so far.
The girl, Adya Singh, was first admitted at the Rockland Hospital in the north Indian city, but was moved to Fortis hospital when she was detected with Dengue Type IV on 31 August. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus and could turn life-threatening if it develops into dengue hemorrhagic fever where a patient suffers from bleeding, low blood platelets count and blood plasma leakage. The disease becomes fatal when it develops dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs, which happened in case of the seven-year-old.
"We shifted her to Fortis Hospital in Gurgaon where she was sedated and immediately put on a ventilator," Adya's father, Jayant Singh, said, according to Times Now news channel.
He added that his daughter was kept under sedation for three days at the hospital. The next two days were the weekend, so there was no doctor at the hospital to brief them about their daugther's condition.
"We stood clueless outside the ICU, staring at our sick baby through the glass window, wondering what to do," the father said and added that Adya remained on life support for 10 days.
"They have charged for 2,700 gloves, 660 syringes, high-end antibiotics and sugar strips which I am not sure were even used," Singh said.
"While on September 9, 10 and 11 she was undergoing dialysis, another weekend approached and we had no access to a doctor who would counsel us on her condition," he added.
On September 14, doctors told the family the girl was unlikely to recover. "They later told me that up to 70-80% of her brain had been damaged and even if she were to recover she would not have normal function," Singh reportedly told local media.
Singh said that when he told the doctors at Fortis that he wanted to take Adya home, "they told me that I will have to seek Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) and arrange for an ambulance myself".
"They took her off the ventilator, dialysis and stopped feeding her," Singh alleged. He said that the doctor told his wife to go for a full body plasma transplant (a procedure to remove, treat and return blood plasma).
"On one hand, the doctors had declared that my baby's brain was 70-80% damaged, while on the other hand, they suggested a full body plasma transplantation.
"At the end of two weeks in Fortis, on the last day, I was waiting to ferry my baby away since 2 pm. They only released her at 11:30pm local time (6pm GMT). We immediately took her back to Rockland Hospital and after much persuasion, they conducted an ECG, declared Adya dead and issued us a death certificate," the father said.
In a statement issued by Fortis hospital on the issue, it said the hospital followed the standard protocol.
"Seven-year-old baby Adya was brought in to Fortis Memorial Research Institute (Gurgaon), from another private hospital on the morning of 31st August, 2017. She was admitted with Severe Dengue which progressed to Dengue Shock Syndrome and was managed on IV fluids and supportive treatment as there was a progressive fall in platelet count and hemoconcentration (decrease in blood plasma volume). As her condition deteriorated, she had to be put on ventilatory support within 48 hours. The family was kept informed of the critical condition of the child and the poor prognosis in these situations," the hospital statement read.
Meanwhile, Singh's wife, who was pregnant at the time of their daughter's hospitalisation, suffered a miscarriage due to the shock of her daughter's death, Times Now reported.
The family has said that they will file a case in the consumer court against the hospital.