Taking further the definition of negligence and shifting the failure of the government to provide adequate facilities, the Delhi consumer forum has stated that Over-crowded wards and overtime duty of doctors are not excuses to justify medical negligence.
It asked Safdurjung hospital to pay Rs 11.05 lakh to a man whose wife died due to its deficient service.
The commission directed the hospital to ensure that an adequate number of doctors or specialists remain on duty irrespective of the fact that a particular day is a working day or a holiday.
The panel, while referring to report from Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said there was "gross negligence" on the part of the hospital as the 42-year-old patient could neither be shifted to ICU nor put on ventilator due to non-availability of beds.
"It is clear that there is an admission of 'deficiency in service' on the part of the treating doctors especially as per report given by the panel of experts appointed by DGHS.
"A senior resident on call attended the patient, patient needed to be ventilated. No ventilator was available in the ICU. On a second reference to ICU on April 26, 2006 at 6 am, again no bed was available in ICU. Patient could not be put on ventilator. Patient died at 8 am. It is nothing but a case of gross negligence," the commission said.
The hospital had denied all the allegations levelled against it and said it made every timely effort to provide appropriate treatment to the patient.
It said that the patient or her attendants were at liberty to seek discharge if they were feeling dissatisfied with the treatment.
"Before parting, it may be mentioned here that the hospital must address the problem of lack of ICU beds and ventilators. It also must ensure that an adequate number of doctors/ specialists remain on duty irrespective of the fact that a particular day is a working day or a holiday.
"All doctors must be given training to record the investigations done in the investigation chart. Laboratories in emergency department should function effectively even on holidays. The results of tests given by such labs should be reliable. Overloaded wards and extra hours of duty of doctors and staff should never become an excuse to justify negligence," it said.
"Treating doctors shifted the blame to the factor of overcrowding in the hospital. Holidays of Saturday or Sunday is no justification for detailing lesser number of doctors and paramedical staff. Experts have admitted that it was the non-availability of beds in ICU that the patient could not be transferred to ICU.
"Experts have opined that Contrast Enhanced CT Fundoscopy could have further assisted in diagnosis. It clearly goes to shows that standard protocol was not followed. The hospital was, therefore, negligent and deficient in service. Seriousness of the condition of the patient was never explained to the relatives/attendants," it observed.
According to the complaint lodged by Verma, his wife Kiran was being treated for obesity and diabetes at another hospital when she suffered severe pain in her abdomen on April 22, 2006.
Her husband rushed her to Safdarjung hospital with all her reports but she allegedly could not get proper treatment till 40 hours of her admission.
But if this logic is sustained then probably every patient coming to a government hospital deserves the above mentioned compensation, every patient coming to a government hospital should then file a case of negligence against the hospital because hardly any facilities are available to give treatment as per protocols.
Visit any hospital and one can easily find 2-3 patients on a single bed, with high chances of cross infection. Ventilators are hardly available in any one of them.
For a CT scan, MRI, a patient has to ambulate to a radiology center outside the hospital, which is clearly against the standard protocols.
Shifting the blame of failure of government machinery to provide adequate infrastructure on to the medical professionals is hardly justified. No one will be more happy than the doctors if they can have all the facilities at their disposal and can treat everyone with standard protocols.
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