Rs 1 crore compensation has been awarded against Apollo Hospital and its gynaecologist in ratio of 80:20 for a case of birth asphyxia by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
On 22-4-2015 in case of Dr Indu Sharma vs Indraprastha Apollo Hospital the commission held: “The corporate hospitals and specialists, as might be expected, must perform at a higher level than other hospitals / general practitioners. They, after all, represent themselves as possessing highest standard facilities and care; also possess superior skills and additional training. The hospital charges and the doctor’s fees normally reflect this”.
I have often wondered in all this hullaballoo of antenatal ultrasound shut downs, doctors screaming hoarse about injustice being meted out to them under CPA (Consumer Protection Act), and PCPNDT (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act and now under CEA (Clinical Establishment Act), why corporate hospitals do not join the masses of “ordinary doctors”. Is it that they feel their houses are stronger than those of the mere “small and medium healthcare provider”? Do they think their clout can spare them the legal problems associated with the medical practice? If so, I wish to remind them that in an earthquake the one with the thatched roof suffers the minimum damage. It is the palatial buildings which when they fall cause the maximum loss.
Judgments with exorbitant compensation awards and high profile cases will all be against the corporate hospitals, which treat the high net worth individuals and VIPs. Example of Kunal Saha Judgment also proves the point.
The corporate hospitals may be better equipped to deal with routine day-to-day problems like violence against them or adverse press coverage for any and every death occurring in the establishment but the really major problems will also occur in these very hospitals.
It is time for the corporates to rethink their strategy. Joining the small and medium healthcare providers may seem below their dignity but given the adverse scenario medical professionals are working in currently it is in their interest to work together and along with them to try and improve the situation, fight the bad laws legally and even join them if strike is called.
The deep pockets of corporate hospitals will specially be helpful in challenging and changing laws, which have been formulated in haste and are now causing problems for doctors and public alike. The chicken may be sacrificed first but the cow cannot be far behind.
Dr Neeraj Nagpal
Convenor, Medicos Legal Action Group
Ex-President, IMA Chandigarh