The Punjab State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has ordered KGM hospital here to pay Rs 18.45 lakh as compensation and litigation costs to Sandeep Kaur (28), a local resident, and her parents for medical negligence in treating her accidental injuries.
The commission said, "A youthful girl… has been converted into a cripple due to medical negligence of the hospital, which failed to give her proper treatment."
"Her employment and matrimonial prospects have certainly become limited… She has to depend upon the attendant, which not only slows the pace of life but also requires monetary expenses. The loss suffered by her due to this trauma, which reduced her chances to settle in life, cannot be measured in money. Rs 10 lakh would be, however, just and proper compensation," the commission ordered.
"The family is entitled to Rs 5 lakh as compensation for suffering mentally and physically during nine years of the legal battle. Besides, they are entitled to Rs 3.45 lakh spent on treatment and consultations at 34 hospitals and institutions to get her treated after failure to get proper treatment at KGM Hospital," the commission ruled, adding that the hospital shall pay the amount in 30 days from the receipt of this order or pay with 9% interest per annum from the date the complaint was filed, February 17, 2006.
On August 18, 2003, Sandeep met with an accident and was admitted to the civil hospital, Pathankot. Her X-ray of the pelvis and left heel was performed in a "clumsy" manner to diagnose that superior and inferior ramus on the right side were fractured. Since the hospital equipment was not up to the mark, the fracture on her left side was not detected, according to Sandeep's father Kultar Singh.
She was subsequently shifted to KGM Hospital, Jalandhar. Hospital proprietor Dr Kulwant Singh started treatment by applying skin traction on the right leg alone, Kultar Singh contended before the commission, adding that no fresh X-ray was conducted to ascertain the exact condition of the fractured pelvis.
Sandeep was discharged after spending 50 days in the hospital even as she was still complaining of severe back pain and stiffness. The respondents (hospital authorities) claimed that the fracture of the pelvis had healed well and she would soon start walking. However, the fracture of the left sacral bone had not healed and the patient was not told about upward dislocation of the left side of the pelvis due to wrong treatment, the complainant said. Four months later, Sandeep came to the hospital again and the doctor prescribed muscle-strengthening exercises to restore flexibility and joint motions.
Thereafter, her parents visited 34 hospitals and medical institutions in the country to get proper treatment. But the medical negligence caused irreversible damage as her left leg got shortened by 1.5 inches, thus rendering her permanently handicapped, Kultar Singh alleged.
How consumer commission established deficiency in service
Extracts from the commission' judgment:
The hospital contended that they used an image intensifier to ascertain Sandeep's injuries. But the record about the image intensifier was not made available.
Despite exercising an ordinary degree of professional skill and competence in getting fresh X-ray and the radiologist's report about the injury and thereafter, to start the treatment, the hospital started treatment on the basis of a clumsy report of the Pathankot hospital and therefore, the conduct of respondents (hospital authorities) fell below the standards of a reasonably competent medical practitioner.
The treatment started on wrong lines and seven weeks indoor stay in the hospital made the condition of (Sandeep) Kaur worse on producing receipt allegedly signed by the complainants about receiving medical reports/records of the patient, it was found that their signatures were forged. The police registered a criminal case, while a court had framed charges against the hospital authorities. The respondent (Dr Kulwant Singh) was proceeding with the treatment without any feedback, which is contrary to the standard medical procedure.
According to the respondent, she (Sandeep) was discharged in a satisfactory condition. There is no mention in the discharge certificate as to what precautions she was to take (not to put weight on her legs) or was she to continue with traction and if so, for how long. It was negligence on the part of the doctor, who did not advise the complainant properly in this respect. There is deficiency in service on his (respondent's) part.