FOR Ranjeeta Dubey (37), the plea to get justice for her brain-damaged son remained unheard. On Wednesday, when the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) began its hearing of medical negligence cases, the board refrained from taking decision in cases against private hospitals, realising it had little jurisdiction in directly tackling such cases.
About 26 cases regarding private hospitals went either unheard or were heard but no decision was taken.
This is the first time NHRC, in collaboration with the NGO Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan, has organised a nationwide public hearing for patients. While in 2004, a similar hearing was organised, this time NHRC was supposed to hear cases against private hospital as well. However, the bench headed by Justice Cyriac Joseph, Justice D Murugesan and SC Sinha had to refrain from directing private institutes from paying any compensation.
Dubey delivered a critical baby on the night of November 16, 2008, who suffered lack of oxygen and sustained damage in 70 per cent of her brain. According to her complaint, her delivery was delayed by several hours at a Kandivali East private hospital which permanently affected the new born.
“I was supposed to get medical assistance by Dr Neeta Varte. I went in labour on November 15. I was admitted in hospital on November 16 morning. For whole day, we waited for her to turn up for delivery. The assistant doctors were either not skilled enough or were waiting for her,” Dubey claimed. At 8.15 pm on November 16, she was finally taken to operation theatre for a caesarean operation. The gynaecologist was still absent. After a c-section, the baby was immediately sent to Surya Hospital for neonatal care after it was realised a ventilator support would be needed.
“We realised our baby was not born normal two days after delivery. The hospital did not inform us,” Dubey says. Her son, Krishna, was kept in ventilator for 19 days. A scar on his forehead continues to baffle parents about the way he was delivered. While Dubey claims, the gynaecologist was out of town and misled the couple that she will be reaching in an hour for delivery, she failed to turn up until night which delayed the delivery. Krishna is now seven years old. On Wednesday, he stood supporting his head by one hand. He cannot walk properly. The couple spends over Rs 40,000 for his monthly medication. The mother has quit her job to look after him.
They have neither filed a police complaint in last six years nor approached the Maharashtra Medical Council. On Wednesday, however, they hoped NHRC would give them a hearing. Her case was not heard afterall. Speaking about the cases against private hospital, Dr Abhay Shukla, from Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan said, “We conducted a separate session with NHRC on private cases. The bench knew private cases would be lined up. We suspect lack of jurisdiction forced them against hearing these cases.”
At one hearing, Abhijeet More from Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan requested the bench, “Patients in private hospitals are also facing negligence. Through their case, the situation in private hospital will come out in open.” To which Justice Joseph said, “Our hands are tied. We do not have the jurisdiction to take action.” After heated arguments from patients arose, Justice Joseph said, “We can only use our powers bound within the act. Anything beyond does not come under our purview.”
Like Dubey, Poonam Chand had a case against a private hospital in Rajasthan. What was allegedly supposed to be a half an hour surgery to remove stones continued for several hours during which the doctors allegedly attempted to remove his kidney. “I travelled to several other hospitals. I was finally operated in Gujarat’s private hospital,” he said.
With a plastic bag full of medical documents, Chand presented his case infront of NHRC bench. “They heard my case but said they cannot take any decision in case of a private hospital,” he says. He had travelled from Rajasthan to Mumbai on Wednesday after preparing for the case for over a month. “I have no money for lawyer. But I think I will have to file a court case with loans,” a grave Chand says as he makes an exit.
By night after three patients from Mumbai waited for a whole day for their chance to be heard, they were told by the bench to approach the High Court.