Delhi Medical Council receives 25-30 medical negligence complaints every month

06 August, 2015

The recent case of medical negligence where an 11-year-old boy lost one of his legs due to casual attitude of four doctors at two of Delhi's premium government hospitals – Hindu Rao and Safdarjung – has yet again given a reason to an average Delhiite to feel uneasy while visiting a government hospital in national capital.

Delving deeper into high incidence of medical malpractice in Delhi's government hospitals, iamin spoke to Dr Girish Tyagi, Registrar, Delhi Medical Council (DMC) and found that around 200-300 complaints are registered every year against private doctors. Excerpts of the interview:

How does Delhi Medical Council investigate medical negligence cases?

We investigate a case for the treatment part, medical negligence and professional misconduct against the doctors. We take action only against individual doctors and not hospitals, Hospitals are under the purview of Director, Health services. Our function is to regulate the practices of modern scientific system of medicine in NCT of Delhi, according to the Delhi Medical Council Act 1997.

How many complaints do you receive in a month?

We receive 25-30 complaints per month and at least 200-300 complaints per year. Of these 70-80 percent are against private doctors.

With reference to this particular case where an 11-year-old boy lost his leg due to negligence of doctors, do you think suspension for only one month is enough? Don’t you think that the punishment should have more severe?

Severity of punishment is a debatable issue. The patient might be of the view that this is no punishment at all and it might be a severe punishment for the doctor.

However, the case was serious. The kid is very young and his bones will grow. He might have to undergo multiple surgeries and depend on someone for the entire life now.

The child was also taken to a quack before he was brought to Hindu Rao hospital. How can this problem of too many fake doctors in the national capital be addressed?

Initially, the child got an injury in left leg and was taken to a quack. The quack was unaware of the glass piece inside the leg and did not diagnose it.

To curb this particular form of medical malpractice, legal system should be strict and stringent action should take place with quick redressal. We need to have more fast track courts.

In this particular case, proper records should have been maintained. The record keeping was not proper at Safdarjung and Hindu Rao hospital. This means that there is no signature and name of the doctor who diagnosed patient. There should be proper notes of the case and doctors should communicate about the problem to the patient. They should take conscent from the patient before any operation. They should also brief the patient about the problem.

Why does it take so much time for a complaint to get resolved?

The number of cases is rising as more and more people are becoming more aware about their rights. We get 25-30 complaints on an average, which means 200-300 complaints per year. It takes lot of time to resolve a complaint as it could be fraudulent complaint. When a complaint reaches us, it is sent to the executive committee that verifies if the complaint is genuine or not. A fake complaint is dismissed by this committee.

If a complaint is genuine, we send it to an expert committee to examine the case. We call the doctors involved and hold a meeting with the expert panel. If a complaint goes into disciplinary committee, it takes at least 1-2 years at least for redressal. Pendency of cases needs to be reduced.

The DMC committee meets twice a month. It takes a year to handle a case and then there are many other cases as well which is why it takes much time. We take action against the doctors responsible for medical negligence. If we get complaints about hospitals for instance lack of facilities, we forward those complaints to Director, Health Services. 

The condition of government hospitals is miserable. Do you get more complaints from government hospitals?

By far, we have been getting lesser complaints from government hospitals. The reason could be patients are from lower social strata and might not be much aware or might not be in a position to file a complaint.

A premature baby died last month who was denied admission at two government hospitals – Kalawati Saran and RML hospital. Who should be held responsible for this?

There should have been a provision where some ventilators should have been kept in stock for emergency cases like this. There is a dearth of equipment at government hospitals.

How can a person ensure that the doctor he is taking treatment from is genuinely qualified?

A patient can access the website of DMC and check whether the doctor has educational qualifications or not. As per Delhi Medical Council Act 1997, a person has to display his educational certificates with the council.