A three-year-old boy died on Sunday, a day after he accidentally swallowed a coin, in the Indian state of Kerala. Relatives alleged that three government hospitals, where he was taken to, refused to admit the child over fears of COVID-19.
Reportedly, the boy named Prithviraj lived with his parents, Raju and Nandini, in Aluva. His parents and relatives told local news reporters that the boy was refused admission as he came from Kadungallur, a COVID-19 containment zone in Aluva.
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The incident occurred on Saturday morning and the child’s parents took him to a government hospital in Aluva. An X-ray revealed the presence of the coin.
According to Indian news websites, the hospital allegedly refused to admit the child. A senior doctor claimed that the boy was not admitted as there was no paediatric surgeon, and was thus referred to the Ernakulam General Hospital.
Doctors at the second hospital, too, examined the child and referred him to the Government Medical College Hospital, Alappuzha, for better medical care. According to one news report, Dr A Anitha, Medical Superintendent, Ernakulam General Hospital said: " An X-ray was taken and the coin was found in his stomach and therefore was not a threat. The kid was not showing any breathing difficulty and seemed active at the time. Since there was no paediatric surgeon at the hospital, we suggested them to take him to the medical college and the family preferred to go to Alappuzha Medical College since it was closest. An ambulance was also arranged for their travel."
Allegedly, the third hospital also did not admit the child. The doctors reportedly advised the parents to give their child bananas, which, they said, would result in the coin passing through his bowel movement.
According to reports, the parents who are poor and cannot afford bigger costly hospitals, took the child back to their home. By evening, the child’s condition worsened, and he started crying incessently. Prithviraj's parents rushed him to Aluva government hospital, but he died en route, police said.
Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja said the incident was "very unfortunate" and has asked the Principal Secretary (Health) to submit a report after a thorough enquiry.
In a statement, she said that strict action would be taken if any lapses were found.
According to a report by the news agency Press trust of India, the child's swab was collected for a COVID-19 test.
A later update confirmed that the three-year-old's COVID-19 result returned negative in the TruNat test conducted after his death.
Only a post-mortem examination can reveal the cause of death. A police surgeon will conduct the autopsy due to the controversial nature of the incident, the report said.
The Alappuzha Medical College team has insisted that the coin cannot be the cause of the boy's death.