Haryana Government Report on Fortis 'Overcharging' Case Says Hospital 'Disposes' of Patients Unethically

The report responds to a seven-year-old girl's family's claims that they were being cheated by Fortis hospital and pulls up the hospital on several counts.

New Delhi: The Haryana government has acted swiftly on the case of “overcharging” at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, in which a seven year old suffering from dengue died and her parents received a bill of Rs 15 lakh.

A four-member committee has submitted a long report to the government. In it they deal with various issues which have emerged, such as the father’s claims that Fortis hospital tried to settle the case by offering him Rs 25 lakh along with a full refund, and that signatures of the parents were forged.

They have recommended that the case be sent to the Medical Council of India for action against the senior doctors treating the child.

This report was in compliance with an order from the government of Haryana on November 21, 2017.

The committee specifies that the child had been suffering from dengue shock syndrome, and “not mere dengue fever”, along with multi-organ dysfunction syndrome and had been admitted to the hospital in an emergency condition. The mortality is high in cases of dengue shock syndrome, ranging from 6% to 30%, says the report. It also clarifies that the payment of Rs 15 lakh was for the intensive care unit treatment and not for dengue fever itself.

The child’s father, Jayant Singh, told the committee that Fortis had asked the family to take the child home, in order to “Let the baby rest in peace”. For this, the family was told to organise its own ambulance and ventilator as Fortis would not provide theirs. The family was told that the doctor would remove the child’s ventilator while in the ambulance and another hospital would have to issue the death certificate. The father also told the committee that on this same day, a doctor from Fortis suggested doing an expensive full-body plasma transplant, even though they had already said the child’s condition had deteriorated too much.

“Under these circumstances it appears prima facie that under garb of Leave Against Medical Advice process the hospital disposes off (sic) the patients in unethical manner when attendants no longer want to continue the treatment,” says the report.

The committee says that the hospital cannot disown the patient completely, as Fortis is said to have done, even if the family decides to take the patient home against medical advice. “They must ensure all facilities for transfer/ transport to home or other hospitals,” says the report. The report also says that “withdrawal of life support by the hospital staff in the ambulance amounts to negligence and is against the law of the land” and that this action of taking out the tube and stopping the ventilator should not have been done, inspite of the parents having consented to it.

One of the doctors wrote, “On the part of the parents it was against the morality to leave the hospital against medical advice in such a critical case.”

The family had also asked why such a large number of gloves, syringes and other consumables were used. The committee says that general guidelines recommend a “liberal use” of consumables to decrease the risk of hospital-acquired infections and that so far no violations of drug pricing were observed.

However, the report notes that the child was given differently-branded medicines of the same drug. The price difference among these brands ranged from Rs 3,112 to Rs 499, and Rs 6,350 and Rs 2,777.

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