New Delhi: Over-crowded wards and overtime duty of doctors are not excuses to justify medical negligence, the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has observed while asking a renowned government hospital to pay Rs 11.05 lakh to a man whose wife died due to its deficient service.
The commission directed the Safdarjung hospital, one of largest central government hospitals in India, 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, headed by judicial member NP Kaushik, while referring to report from Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) which had taken strong exception to the hospital’s conduct, 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 was 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 the second reference to ICU on April 26, 2006, at 6 a.m, again no bed was available in ICU.
The patient could not be put on the ventilator. The patient died at 8 a.m. It is nothing but a case of gross negligence,” the commission said.
Besides referring to the DGHS report, it also considered the report by Medical Council of India (MCI) and Delhi Medical Council (DMC) which had observed that the management of the hospital was required to undertake appropriate steps for improving communication between doctors and relatives of the patient.
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.
The commission, however, granted the compensation to the patient’s husband Sudhir Verma and passed a slew of directions for the hospital, including addressing lack of ICU beds and proper training for doctors.
“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 the training to record the investigations done in the investigation chart.
Laboratories in the 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. The commission also observed that weekend holidays were no justification for a lesser number of doctors and paramedical staff in the hospital.
“Treating doctors shifted the blame to the factor of overcrowding in the hospital. The hospital was, therefore, negligent and deficient in service.
The 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.
Verma, while seeking Rs 45 lakh compensation, alleged that after his wife was put on a drip, she started feeling restless and vomited.
He informed the staff there but her health kept deteriorating, he claimed.
He further claimed that his wife was not attended by any doctor nor any tests were conducted till the next day and ultimately she died four days later due to medical negligence.