Ramesh Chand Sharma retired in 2002. With Rs 5 lakh of gratuity and provident fund tucked away in the bank, he was looking to lead a peaceful family life with his schoolteacher son.
But his 60-year-old heart had other plans. A heart surgery followed. And the treatment didn’t go as planned.
A former office superintendent with the railways — he is 67 now, fighting a case of negligence against Escorts hospital — Sharma was virtually forced into the courtroom from the operation table.
Seven years after the heart surgery, Sharma is still taking the rounds of consumer courts in the Capital.
Exhausted, “all I want now,” he says, “is peace of mind.”
Within six months of retirement, Sharma lost all his savings due to “the wrong treatment by cardiologist Dr Ashok Seth” at Delhi’s Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre in south Delhi’s New Friends Colony.
Sharma alleges he spent over Rs 2.5 lakh on “an unnecessary” angioplasty at Escorts and another Rs 2.5 lakh on a corrective coronary bypass surgery at Apollo for treating his multiple vessel blockages in the heart.
“A wrong medical decision to do angioplasty (a procedure to mechanically widen narrowed blood vessels) was made at Escorts when what I actually needed was a bypass surgery (done in multiple or multi-vessel blockages),” Sharma alleges.
He has to depends entirely on his son’s earnings now.
“After retirement, I had hoped to invest my savings and live peacefully on the returns. But one wrong decision has left me financially insecure and physically weak.”
He tries to hold back tears. Fails.
“Patients tend to rely completely on the treating doctor’s advice, especially when he is from an established hospital like Escorts,” he says.
“But where does one go if the doctor is only interested in making money and doesn’t care for his patient?”
In October 16, 2002 Sharma underwent angioplasty on the advice of interventional cardiologist Dr Ashok Seth, now the Chairman of the Escorts Heart Institute.
When the treatment did not make him better, he sought the advice of cardiac surgeon Dr Naresh Trehan, who was then the Escorts chairman .
“After examining the smaller stents — a small mesh tube used to treat narrowed or weakened arteries in the body — used by Dr Seth to clear blockages, Dr Trehan recommended a coronary bypass,” says Upendra Kumar (44), Sharma’s son, who teaches mathematics in Siddharth International Secondary School.
“He said angioplasty wasn’t the advised procedure in my father’s case.”
Sharma had a double-vessel disease and multiple blockages.
The angiography report (of the test conducted to determine the number of blockages) prepared by Escorts cardiologist Dr Anil Saxena before Dr Seth’s procedure also recommended a bypass.
“When we returned to the hospital for a corrective surgery and requested them to adjust the costs of angioplasty against the surgery, they threw my ailing father out at 11 in the night,” Upendra says.
The family went to Delhi’s Apollo Hospitals, where cardiac surgeon Dr Ganesh Mani performed the corrective bypass surgery.
In March 2003, Sharma registered a formal complaint against the Chief Medical Officer of Escorts Heart Institute and Dr Ashok Seth in the district consumer forum in Mehrauli in south Delhi.
The district consumer forum and the state consumer forum held the hospital guilty for medical negligence. But Escorts challenged the judgment.
The case will be heard in the national forum later this month.
“I am a heart patient and it is against the doctor’s advice to travel alone,” Sharma says. “My son has to give up his full day of work to accompany me. I am tired and want to see the guilty doctor punished.”
Sharma lives in Balbir Nagar extension in Shahdara. All consumer forums are situated at a distance of 25-30 kilometres from his house.
Travelling to any of the forums takes him at least two hours. “I want the case to end. Soon,” he bids goodbye.