This is the second horrific case of transfusion of HIV positive blood in a government hospital in Tamil Nadu in less than a year
A two-year-old girl who was undergoing treatment in the Coimbatore Government Hospital has allegedly been transfused with HIV positive blood.
Mani* and Soundarya* hailing from Tiruchirappalli district, had twins on February 6, 2018 at the Trichy Government Hospital.
Since the baby girl Kamini* was underweight, she was given neonatal care at the hospital. Following this, the infant was again taken for treatment to the Tirupur Government Hospital on July 11, 2018. The child was diagnosed with heart disease and referred to the Coimbatore GH. Doctors there stated that the child needed blood transfusion and this was carried out on July 12.
Her father Mani watched as hospital staff removed the pouch of blood when it was half empty and threw it in the trash. They then replaced it with another blood pouch. Mani says he asked the staff why they did this. “They told me they had mistakenly transfused the blood of an elderly person and it would not be suitable for a baby of this age,” he said. The child was discharged on July 13.
By February 6, 2019, the child had developed boils near her ears. The parents once again admitted her to the Coimbatore GH. “We initially thought she had chicken pox or measles,” said Mani.
Doctors who examined her said that Kamini was infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The shocked parents then got a blood test done for their daughter. She tested positive for HIV. HIV tests on the parents as well as Kamini’s twin returned negative.
Following this, Mani charged the Coimbatore GH with negligence, stating that his daughter was transfused with HIV infected blood. “The police refused to register a complaint and so I have approached an organisation called “People’s Watch” to take this issue forward,” he said. He has also sent complaints to the Tamil Nadu Health Secretary and to the Coimbatore Commissioner of Police.
“The father is a daily wage earner and is finding it very difficult to eke out a livelihood,” said VP Sarathy, a lawyer with People’s Watch. “It is also learnt that the parents have not taken the child to any other hospital other than government hospitals. Therefore it is clear that the blood transfusion from the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital to the child should be the cause for the child being inflicted by the HIV virus. There should be a thorough enquiry into this to find out the truth,” he said.
Mani has also demanded a CBI or CB-CID probe to determine who is responsible for transfusing HIV positive blood to his daughter.
Asokan, dean of Coimbatore GH, has denied the charge, stating that the blood in their hospital is thoroughly checked for all contagious diseases. “The government hospital did not make any mistakes and transfusion of red blood cells will not spread HIV,” he stated. He added that no complaints have come to him in regard to this matter but he had initiated a probe anyway. “The child has undergone treatment at many hospitals since she was born and it is possible that HIV may have been passed on in any of these hospitals. We don’t know where the baby has been infected,” he said.
Meenakshi, Coimbatore District President of the HIV Positive Welfare Association argued that the Coimbatore GH Dean was making unscientific statements. “If transfusion of red blood cells do not spread HIV, then why do we not donate blood? We will also donate blood and you take only our red blood cells. It is highly condemnable that the Dean is making such statements which are not based on science, just to save himself,” she said.
“This incident is very regretful. Since neither parent of the child is HIV positive, and there are no signs of any sexual abuse, the child must have become HIV positive through transfusion of infected blood or by an infected syringe. Since the child seems to have suffered because of negligence, the Health Department needs to take responsibility for the treatment and compensation for the child. An investigation needs to be conducted into how the child got infected,” she said.
Another Transfusion & A Suicide
In December 2018, a pregnant woman was administered HIV positive blood at the Sattur Government Hospital, Sivagangai district. The incident created a furore.
It was subsequently found that the donor, a 19-year-old from Ramanathapuram district who had donated blood in Sivakasi, had informed the blood bank that he was HIV positive after a test and had requested the blood bank not to use his blood. By then, though, the infected blood had reached Sattur GH and had been administered.
When the donor realised that it was his blood which had infected the pregnant woman, he attempted suicide by consuming rat poison, was admitted in hospital and died of gastro-intestinal bleeding a couple of days later.
According to the then Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan, there are eight lakh donors in Tamil Nadu donating blood every year and 12 lakh patients receive this blood. Government hospitals are required to test blood for HIV, Hepatitis-B and C, syphilis and malaria.
(*Names changed to protect identity)