While dismissing an appeal filed by Mumbai-based PD Hinduja National Hospital, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has asked the hospital to pay Rs3.51 lakh to a patient. Hinduja Hospital had filed an appeal against an order passed by Maharashtra state consumer disputes redressal commission. Earlier, dismissing Hinduja Hospital’s appeal, the state commission had imposed a cost of Rs25,000 on it while modifying the order of district consumer forum for paying Rs3.51 lakh to the patient.
The order issued last week says, “Patient safety aims to prevent and reduce risks, errors and harm that occur to patients. The ‘Deny and Defend’ approach of the hospital or doctor had a significant impact on patient safety. Unfortunately, when hospital staff and administrators do not keep their hospitals well organised or the supporting staffs make careless mistakes, innocent lives could be at risk. When protecting the institution is the primary goal, poor practices are excused and justified, and patients remained at risk of injuries”.
The matter relates to 9 October 2012, when the patient Harsha Ashok Lala visited to Hinduja Hospital for a follow-up after her spinal surgery in the last week of September 2012.
It was alleged she was very rashly and negligently wheeled from hospital corridor, on the ramp by an unidentified security guard without putting the seat belt, as a result of which she suffered ‘head on fall’ from the wheelchair and sustained fracture of left (ankle) lower end fibula tip. She further alleged that immediate first aid was not given, and she was made to stand in queue for payment of X-ray charges, which caused further pain and agony.
It was further alleged that the incident was reported immediately to the hospital authorities but to no avail. According to the complainant, the hospital wilfully avoided informing the police about such a serious accident in their premises. The complainant also added that it was gross negligence and deficiency in service from the support staff at the hospital.
Being aggrieved by the negligent care and conduct of the opposite party, Ms Lala filed consumer complaint before the Mumbai district consumer forum and claimed a compensation of Rs16 lakh. She also filed a criminal complaint and first information report (FIR) with the concerned police station.
Hinduja Hospital filed its written submission before the district forum, stating that the complainant was an old patient of their hospital. The hospital admitted the fall of the patient from the wheelchair on 9 October 2012. In their written submission, the hospital said “The junior doctor attended her immediately and a provisional diagnosis was mentioned as undisplaced fracture of lower end of left tibia. The treating doctor, Dr Sanjay Agarwal, examined her and ruled out any fracture or any dislocation of the left ankle joint and mentioned, it was only swelling around the ankle joint”.
“A sugar tong splint was given which was to be removed after 5 days and Air Cast splint was advised to be worn after 5 days. The patient was treated as per standards. Therefore, the complainant was not entitled for any compensation and/or refund of previous treatment expenditure. The hospital added in its written statement that the complainant’s claim was imaginary and highly exaggerated,” P.D. Hinduja Hospital added .
On 30 November 2015, the district forum partly allowed the complaint and directed the hospital to pay Rs1 lakh as compensation and Rs10,000 towards the cost of legal proceedings to Ms Lala.
Aggrieved with this order, Hinduja Hospital approached the state commission. On 28 November 2019, the Maharashtra state commission dismissed the appeal with costs of Rs25,000 on the Hospital with modification of the order of district forum that the hospital should pay Rs3.51 lakh to Ms Lala within one month from the date of the order failing which, the amount was to carry interest at the rate of 9% per annum.
However, Hinduja Hospital then approached the national commission --NCDRC. Ms Lala, the respondent complainant argued the matter in person.
Dr SM Kantikar, presiding member of the NCDRC, after hearing the arguments from both the sides, was of the view that the state commission has recorded the concurrent finding of fact and passed a well-appraised reasoned order.
The revisional powers of the National Commission are derived from Section 21 (b) of the Act, and have been discussed by the Supreme Court in Rubi (Chandra) Dutta Vs. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. – (2011) 11 SCC 269 and Lourdes Society Snehanjali Girls Hostel and Ors. Vs. H & R Johnson (India) Ltd. and others, (2016) 8 Supreme Court Cases 286.
“The Supreme Court laid down the ingredients of medical negligence in its various judgments, none of which are found in the instant case. In my view, prima facie, this case does not fall strictly in medical negligence,” the NCDRC held.
The NCDRC presiding member noted that wheelchairs are usually thought of as 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 as such can be easily prevented by the hospital or nursing home.
The commission also expressed caution that 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.
“In the instant case, having regard to the fact that the 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. No palpable crucial error in appreciating the evidence by the two fora below, as may cause to require de novo re-appreciation in revision, is visible. No jurisdictional error, or legal principle ignored, or miscarriage of justice, is visible. Nothing warrants interference with the impugned order of the state commission in the exercise of the revisional jurisdiction of this commission. Based on the forgoing discussion, the revision petition is dismissed,” the NCDRC order concluded.