The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Death shifts focus to rights
- Complaints growing against private hospitals

A patient has the right to considerate and respectful care.

A patient can expect reasonable continuity of care.

Patrick Cranston, who was admitted to Mission of Mercy Hospital in an extremely serious condition on Wednesday afternoon, was denied these rights.

The Medical Council of India has recently adopted a set of norms from the American Hospital Association Guidelines, which entitles patients to some basic rights (see box).

But the 57-year-old man, suffering from diabetes, cardiac disorder and several other ailments, died unattended to as the authorities pressed the pause button on treatment and medical supply for him.

The reason — his dues had not been cleared.

Though Cranston’s family has not filed any official complaint, his death on Saturday has brought the issue of patients’ rights to the centre stage.

“Once a patient is accepted by a hospital on its premises, it has to treat the patient,” asserted Ajay Kumar, national president of the Indian Medical Association.

At Mission of Mercy, a showcause has been slapped on Mariamma George, assistant to medical administrator J. Biswas, for issuing the note which led to ‘miscommunication’.

According to Biswas, Cranston’s treatment was not stopped. “Only the direct supply of medicine from the pharmacy was stopped,” he said, adding that emergency medicine was given to Cranston from the stock maintained in the ward.

The tragic tale of Cranston exposes the darker side of healthcare in private hospitals. From over-billing to unexplained demand for deposits, the complaints against private hospitals are growing.

In a recent case at a multi-speciality hospital in south Calcutta, the relatives of an elderly patient had lodged an FIR with the local police station, accusing the hospital of slapping an inflated bill.

“Disputes over bills in private hospitals are rising,” said a doctor, blaming a lack of transparency in the process.

Some institutions are trying to address the problem. Ruby General Hospital, for instance, has introduced a patients’ bill of rights.

“It clearly states what the patient can expect from the hospital by way of treatment and what the hospital should provide,” said an official.

Other methods — like tying up with NGOs to bail out poor patients — are also being explored as medicare expenses shoot up.

“The private hospitals have to charge patients for maintaining the high cost of infrastructure,” said Brigadier (retd) S.B. Purkayastha, president of AMRI Hospitals.

So, most of the private hospitals request patients’ relatives to pay part of the bill during treatment when the accumulated amount goes up.

“But it is unethical to stop treatment at any stage,” said V. Satyanarayana Reddy, CEO, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals.

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