Akkriti Bhatia and healthcare services in our Schools

modern-schoolHere is the tragic case of Akkriti Bhatia, a 17 year old  school girl, who died yesterday after collapsing in her school. The Hindustan Times reports that Akkriti complained of breathlessness to her classmates, who then called her mother to send a car to fetch her. Apparently when the car arrived, Akkriti requested her teacher’s permission to go home. The teacher realising that she was seriously ill sent her off to the nearby Holy Angels Hospital, where she was declared ‘brought dead’. Akkriti, it seems died on her way to the hospital.

This is a tragedy that could have been easily averted. Akkriti was an asthamatic child. This was known to the school authorities. Yet it seems there was no one in the school, who had the sense to realise that the girl was in acute respiratory distress and someone needed to call an ambulance. Apparently the school by way of medical support had a medical room and a nurse, and the young girl was administered oxygen in the medical room. Curiously enough when her mother’s car came to pick her up, she was taken off the oxygen cylinder and was sent to the hospital gasping for breath accompanied by the school nurse and another student!  

How is it that no one realised how ill Akkriti really was? Why did no one summon an ambulance and trained paramedics? Why was she sent in a car, without oxygen to the hospital? Who should be held accountable for these lapses? Are our children safe in schools?

I believe that the school was just not equipped to take care of an emergency. There was no one including the nurse, who understood the gravity of the problem. I also suspect seeing the child’s condition deteriorating, the school authorities panicked and failed to act rationally. There was neither a person nor any system to deal with a situation like this and in the ensuing confusion, a patently wrong decision of not calling an ambulance and attempting to transfer Akkriti in her mother’s car without oxygen was taken, pretty much sealing her fate.

This is scary.

Particularly, when I know hospitals routinely approach schools requesting them to manage their medical rooms professionally with well trained staff  (doctors and nurses), equipment and supplies and emergency hotlines being available all the time. While working for both Max Healthcare as well as Artemis Health Institute in Gurgaon I have myself in the past proposed such arrangements to various schools. I am afraid not a single school responded favourably. The school authorities usually fobbed us off by saying that they had a nurse and at times a doctor, who visited the school two hours a day and they believed that this was more than adequate for their needs. The hospital was always looked upon with suspicion of making money off the school. Many a times, I would request our paediatricians to accompany me to help convince the school head mistresses but all to no avail. They just could not look beyond their noses and my old fear of school authorities would make me beat a hasty retreat.

The blame for this tragedy must lie squarely with the school authorities. A child, while in school is their responsibility. In an emergency they must have set protocols and trained personnel to handle the situation in an orderly and efficient manner. That a well known school like the Modern School, reacted in a manner that cost one of their student’s her life is not only tragic but downright shameful.

Pic courtesy http://www.modernschoolvv.com

3 thoughts on “Akkriti Bhatia and healthcare services in our Schools

  1. I think schools need to realize that the environment in which kids grow up has changed, which has lead to youngsters suffering from various ailments. This wasn’t the case earlier. The no. of youngsters with ailments was far less.

    There is also a lifestyle shift in many metro’s thus resulting in immune system getting affected.

    Even outside the above points, a school needs to be prepared to take complete care of kids in emergencies.

  2. Some questions:
    How many schools actually have a medical room and a nurse?
    The report is silent on one point – the classmates called Akkriti’s mother to “send a car to fetch her”. Did her mother come too? Or did she send the car and the driver?
    The report seems to lay a great emphasis on how she was removed form oxygen – is it feasible to transport someone in a car with an oxygen cylinder? That could have been done if an ambulance was called for.
    School authorities “panicked” – ANYONE would have! Schools are not equipped to handle medical emergencies, they are not hospitals.
    The death is tragic, untimely and unfortunate – but to accuse the school of “negligence” is a bit too much. Hyped up by media.

  3. Its terrible that a child should die of asthma in this day and age. But a lot of questions are on my mind…
    Was Akkriti known to have severe asthma – enough to require hospital admission? If so, why was she not carrying her puffer (inhaler)? When her mother was called – why did she not call an ambulance or ask the school to do so? When Akkriti was taken off the oxygen and packed into the car – where was her mother? Why did she not object? As an educated mother of a child with asthma – she should have known better. All kids with asthma and their parents have ‘asthma action plans’ to be followed in an acute attack. Given Akkriti’s social background, I am sure she would have had one too. If she didn’t – her doctor is to blame. If she did, why did her mother not follow it? It is easy to blame the school, but are the parents not equally/ more to blame?

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