Wheelchair fall: Mumbai Hospital directed to pay Rs 3.5 lakh compensation for injury in hospital
New Delhi: Upholding the decision of the State Commission, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has recently directed a Mumbai-based multi-speciality PD Hinduja National Hospital Hospital to pay Rs 3.51 lakh as compensation to a patient who suffered a 'head-on fall' from the wheelchair while rashly and negligently wheeled from the hospital corridor.
Dismissing the revision petition filed by the Hospital, Dr. S.M. Kantikar, Presiding member of NCDRC held that injuries arising out of a wheelchair in a medical setting, purportedly due to negligence of staff, does not fall within the purview of medical negligence. However, it observed that the patient underwent mental agony and physical trauma and the quantum of award made by the State Commission was just.
As a word of caution, the top consumer court advised the Hospital authority to make systemic improvement in their administration and their grievance redressal mechanism to ensure the patient's safety and to maintain good Doctor-Patient relationship.
The case goes back to 2012 when the complainant patient had visited the treating hospital for a follow-up check-up after spinal surgery. The complainant alleged that she was very rashly and negligently wheeled from the hospital corridor, on the ramp by an unidentified security guard without putting on the seat belt.
This resulted in an accident and she suffered 'head on fall' from the wheelchair and sustained fracture of left (ankle) lower end fibular tip.
It was further alleged by the Complainant that the first-aid was not given to her, and she had to stand in queue for payment of X-Ray charges. When the treating hospital was made aware of the incident the authorities willfully avoided informing the police about such serious accident in their premises.
Alleging gross negligence & deficiency in service from the supportive staff at the hospital the Complainant had approached the District Forum and also filed an FIR in the concerned police station.
On the other hand, the treating hospital had claimed that a junior doctor at the hospital had immediately attended the patient after the fall and provisional diagnosis mentioned as undisplaced fracture of lower end of the left tibia. After the treating doctor examined the patient and ruled out any fracture or any dislocation of left ankle joint, a Sugar tong splint was given which was to be removed after 5 days and an Air Cast splint was advised to be worn after 5 days.
Claiming that the patient was treated as per standards, the hospital prayed for the dismissal of the complaint.
The District Forum partly allowed the complaint and directed the hospital to pay Rs. 1,00,000/- as compensation and Rs. 10,000/- towards the cost of legal proceedings to the Complainant. When the hospital approached the State Commission, challenging the District Forum's order, State Commission dismissed the appeal with costs of Rs. 25,000/- on the hospital and modified the earlier order of the District Forum. By the judgment of the State Commission, the hospital was asked to pay Rs 3,51,000/- to the Complainant within one month from the date of the order failing which, the amount was to carry interest at the rate of 9% per annum.
Unhappy with the State Commission, the hospital finally approached NCDRC, which related the case to deficiency in service and an act of omission from the hospital staff.
After hearing the contentions of both the parties, the top consumer court noted that the State Commission had recorded the concurrent finding of fact and passed a well-appraised reasoned Order.
Referring to several judgments by the Supreme Court the NCDRC opined that the case doesn't contain any of the ingredients of medical negligence as laid down by the Apex Court.
Although the top consumer court opined that the case doesn't fall strictly under medical negligence, it mentioned,
"Wheelchairs are usually thought of a medical device that is meant to help those who are injured or have physical challenges; they can also be a source of injury when not properly used. Most wheelchair injuries that happen in a medical setting due to the negligence of medical staff and such could be easily prevented by hospital or nursing home."
"As a word of caution, in my view, the Hospital authority should make systemic improvement in their administration and their grievance redressal mechanism to ensure the patient's safety and to maintain good Doctor-Patient relationship," further added the Commission.
Dismissing the revision petition by the hospital, the Commission noted,
"Having regard to the fact that patient underwent mental agony and physical trauma and the quantum of award made by the State Commission appears just and equitable in the facts of the case."
To view the original judgment, click on the link below.