The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scorn pours on private hospitals
- Patient harassment comes under glare

Calcutta, April 21: Patrick Cranston’s death at a Park Street hospital today drew sharp reactions from the medical fraternity, which said private hospitals are seldom taken to task for shoddy treatment of patients.

“We keep getting complaints against private hospitals for harassing patients because they can’t pay bills and overcharging,” said Amitabha Bhattacharya, the secretary of the Indian Medical Association’s Bengal branch.

The Mission of Mercy Hospital authorities had stopped Cranston’s treatment because he couldn’t pay his dues.

“If it has happened, the state health department must intervene,” Bhattacharya said.

Families of several harassed patients have filed complaints, but hospitals are rarely penalised.

One exception was the case of 20-year-old B.Tech student Sumanta Mukherjee.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had directed Ruby General Hospital to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to his family in 2001. Sumanta was hit by a bus on EM Bypass. Passers-by had rushed him to Ruby.

In his complaint, Sumanta’s father had said his son was sent away after being given first-aid because the people who had brought him to hospital couldn’t pay Rs 15,000. Sumanta was rushed to Medical College Hospital, where he was declared brought dead.

Following Sumanta’s death, the government had cancelled the hospital’s licence for a while. It also amended the Clinical Establishments Act, making it mandatory for all medical centres, hospitals and nursing homes to have emergency facilities.

Earlier this year, a police complaint was filed by the family of a middle-aged woman who was kept in a south Calcutta hospital even after she had recovered.

Kunal Saha, president of People for Better Treatment, a healthcare rights body, said the way Cranston was treated is “legally, morally and ethically wrong and against the Medical Council of India code of ethics and regulations”.

Amit De, who heads the Association of Hospitals of Eastern India, said: “This kind of thing normally does not happen. We will find out what exactly took place.... Authorities of private hospitals have to run the establishments and so they have to charge patients. But if a patient cannot pay, we normally grant concessions.”

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