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Hospital has right to insist on payment but prime duty is to take care of patient: NCDRC

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New Delhi: A hospital has every right to insist on payment but it also has the prime duty to take care of a patient facing a health emergency, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has said while awarding a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for medical negligence to a woman whose husband died at the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore.

A bench of presiding member S M Kantikar and Dinesh Singh awarded the compensation to the deceased patient’s wife Yashumati Devi noting that there was an urgent need for the patient’s brain CT scan but it was delayed for more than three hours as the hospital waited for a fresh receipt of Rs 1,850 towards charges for the procedure.

“On the basis of the examination made above, deficiency / negligence is conclusively established. In our considered view, in the facts and specificities of the instant case, compensation of Rs 25 lakh with interest at the rate of 8 per cent per annum from the date of the death of the patient appears just and equitable,” the bench said.

The compensation shall be paid within six weeks of the pronouncement of this order, without fail, it said.

“There was an urgent need for brain CT scan of the patient but it was delayed more than 3 hours for the want of a fresh receipt of Rs 1,850 towards CT scan charges even though complainants had already deposited 1,50,000 in advance. Hospital has every right to insist on the payment but it was also a prime duty to care (for) the emergency patient,” the bench said.

According to the complaint, the 58-year man, who later died, had a history of pain in his left arm after engaging in strenuous activity. In 2009, the patient visited the hospital’s outpatient department complaining of pain in his left arm on exertion.

The patient got admitted in CMC as a private patient. On next day, after examination it was diagnosed as a case of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).

The hospital began administering doses of Heparin to the patient, the complaint alleged, adding that it was started without any laboratory investigations or monitoring protocol.

The patient complained to the hospital authorities of bleeding and disorientation, but despite repeated requests the doctors ignored it.

It stated that they continued administering the drug  (Heparin) which was the cause of the bleeding, only to be informed later that he had suffered a stroke and there was an immediate need for a CT scan.

Citing unpaid dues, the CT scan sought was denied for over three hours despite the fact that Rs 1,50,000 was already deposited.

“The delay in treatment and the improper administration of Heparin led to anticoagulation, resulting in brain haemorrhage, and the patient suffered stroke in the morning at 08:30 AM, since then the doctors at CMC virtually did nothing till 10.30 PM and after long struggle the patient died on 20.06.2009 at 6.30am,” it said.

The hospital raised preliminary objections that the complainants filed a false complaint and suppressed the correct facts. It was further contended that the blood thinners the patient had been taking prior to his treatment at the hospital may have caused internal bleeding.

Being aggrieved, the patient’s wife and son filed the consumer complaint against the CMC for the alleged medical negligence and callousness of the doctors seeking compensation of Rs 2.01 crore.

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