State council records an increase in cases of medical negligence
THE deaths of a new born baby and a pregnant woman recently in two private hospitals attributed to medical negligence have sent shock waves across the City.
While the gynaecologist was removed from the hospital in one case, the Karnataka Medical Council (KMC), the state representative of Medical Council of India (MCI), is looking into the other.
KMC has recorded 18 cases this year, a majority related to medical negligence. In 2009, 26 cases were reported, most of which were from outside Bangalore.
While these are the official figures, there are many more medical negligence cases which are not even reported. “Physicians are moving from being social to commercial. While medical students have to pay to get a seat, corporate hospitals think medical profession is a gold mine,” remarked KMC president Dr Chikkananjappa.
The effect of this can been seen in the rise of cases in the past five years. From two cases a month five years ago, the Council now gets about five cases every month.
A reason for this could also be the Supreme Court order passed last year, which stated that any FIR registered on medical negligence has to be referred to the KMC. Even Consumer courts have been asked to consult KMC about prima facie case of negligence.
As far as conviction rates are concerned, Dr Chikkananjappa said while 60 per cent of the doctors are warned, about two per cent are suspended. In some rare cases, the doctors are barred from medical practice. Till now, only four cases have resulted in such an outcome.
Incidentally, the Council has of late been receiving insurance-related cases too. These cases range from false documents given by hospitals to rigging the percentage of disability, etc. “In the last 20 years, we have never received a single case related to insurance fraud. However, we are now getting three to four cases every year,” he said.
Although, no insurance cases have been filed this year, two cases were registered in 2009 and seven in 2008.
With MCI undergoing a revamp, the governing body managing the functions of MCI is planning to abolish the state councils.
“State medical councils are statutory authorities. Besides, health is a state subject. The governing body wants to make it a branch office,” Dr Chikkananjappa said. He had also sent a letter on the issue to the Union Health Secretary in June.
If the proposal comes to effect, all the cases registered with state councils will be transferred to Delhi. The patients and doctors will then have to travel to Delhi for every hearing. Also, many patients may not know the language.
“While we have opposed this proposal, the State government should support us,” he felt.
Dr Chikkananjappa explained that once a complaint is filed by a patient against a doctor, he goes through the case and categorises it as –– medical negligence, medical ethics, code of conduct, moral turpitude and issuing false certificates –– based on prima facie details.
An acknowledgement is sent to the complainant and simultaneously a copy of the complaint is sent to the doctor with a direction that he has to individually reply to all the allegations. The doctor also has to produce a document, which could prove his innocence.
Once the doctor replies, it is directed to the complainant, who will furnish his reply. This is then reverted to the doctor after whose reply the KMC starts its inquiry. If the doctor is found guilty, notice is served and charges are framed. This is subject to argument post which, KMC members discuss and pass order. With the rise in cases, Dr Chikkananjappa said the KMC, which used to meet once a month to hear the cases, now meets two or three times a month and still finds it difficult to dispose off the cases. Currently, there are nearly 20 cases pending at KMC.
(Published in Deccan Herald on 2nd August, 2010)