HomeBlogNCDRC: Holds hospital deficient for Hospital Associated Infection (HAI)

NCDRC: Holds hospital deficient for Hospital Associated Infection (HAI)

New Delhi: The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) bench of A.P. Sahi, President held the hospital liable for deficiency of service which caused the deterioration of the deceased’s condition after coronary operation due to Hospital Associated Infection (HAI). The Apex Consumer Court was considering the negligence case related to the death of a leading sixth generation jeweller from Hyderabad. Upon perusal of the laboratory reports, the Commission concluded that the deficiency in the services of the hospital causing complications arising out of the bacterial and microbiological infections, which in all probability led to the failure of the organs of the deceased patient arising out of severe Septicaemia and his ultimate death had been established.

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The facts of the case is that the deceased patient was a sixth-generation leading jeweller of Hyderabad. He was stated to have been a person of considerable means and high social stature and used to reside in India for six months and remain abroad the other six months travelling to Switzerland and other countries in connection with his business affairs. In 2002, the deceased patient was admitted to the hospital to undergo coronary surgery. It was alleged that while the surgery went well, however, the post-operative care and management of the patient undertaken by the hospital as well as the attending doctors resulted in negligence on the hospital’s part. This ultimately culminated in the patient getting infected and later succumbing to the infection due to lack of compliance with the correct medical protocol by the hospital. The widow of the deceased jeweller thus filed the instant claim for medical negligence. The complainant argued that the post-surgery mismanagement and negligence by the hospital and its doctors and staff caused the deceased patient to be infected with Hospital Associated Infections and other infections.

The hospital in its defence stated that the deceased patient had weak immunity and several pre-exiting conditions such as diabetes which further made him susceptible to weaknesses and infections. It was urged that since he was a heavy smoker and was also known to have drinking habits, the same also increased his risks and infections and illnesses including pneumonia and other respiratory problems, which led to complications, whenever such a patient is subjected to a surgery or such medical treatment. The hospital said that health condition of the patient led to his demise and the hospital cannot be held negligent for the pre-existing conditions of the patient.

The Apex Consumer Court noted that there was no dispute that the surgery was conducted successfully. The Court further said that considering deceased patient’s history and lifestyle, he was still advised the coronary artery surgery as three vessels were critically blocked. The seriousness of the disease and its consequences were therefore well-known to the patient as well as to his attendants. Hence the Court concluded that there was no negligence in performing the surgery by the hospital. The Consumer forum further said in its order said that perusing the facts and contentions the prime contention that needs to be decided is about the allegations of Hospital Associated Infection (HAI) apart from other issues made by the complainant against the hospital. Concerning the primary issue of Hospital Associated Infection (HAI), the Court perused the laboratory reports. The Court noted that the possibility of a HAI in the instant case was corroborated by the pathological and microbiological tests presented by the complainant. It was further pointed out that the HAI entered the deceased patient’s body through the catheter. The measures adopted by the treating doctor by changing catheters also demonstrated that in all probability the infections had entered through such contaminated equipment’s which were the source of infections. “The scientific tests therefore carried out do indicate that the infections were caused in the hospital on account of contaminated equipment’s that were used during the treatment of the deceased. The diagnosis and the prescription of medicines also indicates that the medicines had to be prescribed to counter the said infections, the source where of related to the catheters and other respiratory equipment’s used by the hospital”. The Court pointed out that it was therefore clear that the Hospital Associated Infections (HAI) were caused in every probability on account of the lapses and unhygienic conditions of the hospital. “There is no explanation worth the name by the hospital nor any evidence adduced and, in all probability, it is for this reason that the same was not reflected in the cause of death in the death summary or the medical certificate.”

The Court stated that HAIs can tend to be fatal, and this is what appeared to have happened in the instant case. “There is no convincing explanation, argument or evidence to contradict this conclusion”. The Court further pointed out that the opposite party could not contradict literature cited and relied on by the complainant as by any conflicting opinion or expert evidence. The Court stated prior medical conditions were known to the opposite parties even before they performed the surgery. The patient was suffering from a chronic disease and was also susceptible to complications on account of his weak constitution but at the same time what aggravated the same is the hospital associated infections that seems to have compounded the worsening situation of the patient. Therefore, the Court concluded that worsening of the deceased patient’s condition after the surgery was the result of deficient services by Care Hospital which thus contributed to the patient’s death. The Commission further clarified that the question of direct medical negligence on the doctors did not seem to be established. With the afore-stated assessment, the Apex Consumer Court awarded a compensation of Rs.10 lakhs to the complainant along with interest of 6% from the date of filling of complaint.

For detail order of NCDRC – Consumer case no. 65 of 2005, click the link below…