The Hindustan Times and the Hospitals in Delhi

HT Report 1The whole of the last week The Hindustan Times carried a series of stories highlighting incidents of ‘negligence’ in high profile private hospitals in Delhi. The hospitals featured included Fortis Escorts Hospital, Max Hospitals, Apollo Hospital, Sir Gangaram Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital. Now these hospitals in Delhi are the best that we have. While, Hindustan Times has a right to expose cases of negligence in hospitals I am still not sure what purpose was served by these reports.

Here are a couple of points I would like to make about these ‘exposes’.

The cases reported highlighted horrific experiences consumers had in these hospitals. Most people featured in the story lost a loved one because the hospital failed to deliver adequate care and refused to take responsibility for what went wrong. These I am afraid were random cases picked up by intrepid journalists and made for riveting reading. However, the journalists doing these stories did not investigate the reason for these failures. The question why did these hospitals fail in their duty towards their patients remains unanswered. Was the failure a result of a doctor not discharging his duties properly, or was it a failure of the hospitals processes or both? Or was it negligence or an error of judgement on the part of a doctor? Did he deliberately mistreat a patient, was callous in discharging his duties, wilfully deviated from standard medical practices or just did not care enough?  

The reports also did not establish a trend. By picking up five hospitals in the city and highlighting these horrific cases, I am not too sure the point that the newspaper has made. Are all these hospitals equally bad? Do we run a huge risk to life and limb if we trust these hospitals with our care? The stories were short on data. For example the story featuring the eminent cardiologist Dr. Ashok Seth, presently the Chairman of the cardiac program at Fortis did not establish how many times has he messed up an angioplasty. By highlighting a single botched up case amongst the thousands that Dr. Seth does every year, I believe the journalist has been less than fair to him. I would like to know Dr. Seth’s success rate in deciding whether I trust him or not rather than go by a sensational story of an angioplasty and the subsequent care going haywire.

As consumers we must understand an ugly truth. There is no running away from the fact that cases of utter negligence and mind boggling errors are a part and parcel of life in a hospital. Even the best hospitals, will have some people who would take their work casually, be negligent in their duties and cause terrible suffering and yes loss of life because of their actions. At best a hospital can try to minimise these as best as it can. It can systematically identify such people and eliminate them, it can put in place systems and processes, which allow it to act before the damage is done. However, it is next to impossible to completely do away with error and negligence.

I just do not understand what point has been established by The Hindustan Times in doing these stories. Yes, it establishes the fact that some of our best hospitals in Delhi have been at times negligent in the discharge of their duties causing untold suffering to people, who trusted these hospitals.

But isn’t it something that all of us know and isn’t that true of all the hospitals in the world?

Wouldn’t it make more sense if the newspaper clearly established a trend of deficient care  in one or all of these hospitals over a period of time and compare the hospital’s record with that of other similar hospitals across the world. It would than stand to reason for citizens to avoid the hospital and for the management of the hospital to fix its people and systems.

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8 thoughts on “The Hindustan Times and the Hospitals in Delhi

  1. MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE CASES ON THE RISE

    The five-part series (from 17-21 August, 2009) on medical negligence in private hospitals in Delhi is really an eye-opener for the general public. It definitely shows the careless attidue of the doctors towards their patients which can be termed as clear-cut cases of medical negligence, even in prestigious hospitals like Apollo, Escorts, Gangaram, Max, Rajiv Gandhi etc. The doctors who were previously “life savers” have now turned into “killers”. It is true that mortalities and morbidities do occur even in good hospitals under unavoidable circumstances, but certainly it could be minimised/considerably reduced, if proper care and attention is provided at the crucial hour to the seriously ill patients.

  2. You have raised some valid questions. In medicine it would be foolish to assume a success rate of 100 %.

    Medical Negligence & Complications is an extremely sensitive & critical subject. It is sad that it is dealt with very irresponsibly by press. Although it is important to make the public aware and alert towards the possibility of medical negligence, yet it is important to not damage the the faith the patients need to have in a doctor and also not tarnish the image of a vast majority of doctors who work with high dedication and ethics.

    I also could not refrain from reacting to this series of articles. My reactions can be read at:
    http://peniterate.blogspot.com/2009/08/keep-faith.html

  3. With regard to the comments of Dr.Sanjay Dhawan, I would like to say that the press has not irresponsibly dealt with the issues of medical negligence in Hindustan Times. They have, in fact, exposed the erroneous hospitals and the doctors who are involved in Medical negligence. I would again reiterate that what for the private hospitals charge heavily? It is only for the quality services and not for merry making or taking the patient to the burial grounds. I even go to the extent of saying that if a doctor is not competent of handling the complicated case in a hospital, why is he not sacked from the hospital right away? After all, the patient’s life is precious and it cannot be regarded as a rotten vegetable, just to be thrown out in the dustbins. The irresponsible doctors treat the patients just like vegetables, machines, torn clothes to be just disposed off if they are unable to handle them properly.

  4. Dear Jayalakshmi,

    While I have published your comment I certainly do not agree with your views. I have worked for many years in hospitals and I can confidently assert that no doctor wishes patients ill. Doctors are quite falliable, the practice of medicine and surgery entails risks and we consumers must understand this.Negligence in care is inexcusable, however it must never be confused with incompetence or measured simply by a medical outcome.

  5. Thanks You,

    Its your great “The Hindustan Times and the Hospitals in Delhi” really i like all these hospital and The hospitals featured included Fortis Escorts Hospital, Max Hospitals, Apollo Hospital, Sir Gangaram Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital.

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