In what may provide much needed relief to patients, who suffer for years at the hands of private doctors, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will conduct a series of public hearings to inquire into the people's rights violations in the health sector.
Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a national network of civil society groups working on health rights is assisting NHRC in conducting Jan Sunvaiyis, which will aid patients to put forth problems they suffer at the hands of doctors.
63-year-old Mulund resident Chandrakant Kulkarni has a swollen stomach for the three years. Beneath his kurta, a big sterile bag is wrapped to his stomach, which collects stool. Kulkarni who had complaints of constipation, was uncannily operated for colon cancer by the consulting surgeon at a 20-bedded private nursing home in Mulund in 2012. "I was asked to undergo a CT scan and a biopsy of my intestine was also taken. Even before the biopsy results, I was asked to undergo a surgery. Three days later, the stitches went awry and opened up. I went into coma and was on ventilator for many days," said Kulkarni. On consulting other gastroenterologists, he found out that he never suffered from cancer. He was fleeced to the tune of close to Rs f5 lakh in the nursing home.
43-year-old Shreya Nimonkar suffering from irregular menses was asked by her gynaecologist to get her uterus removed in a surgical procedure called hysterectomy, at the earliest. "When I asked for some months to contemplate the removal of my uterus, the gynaecologist warned me against it. She said I may suffer from cancer lest I don't get the uterus removed," said Nimonkar. The surgery was badly botched up. "After a few days of the hysterectomy, my entire body started swelling. My urinary system was infected and later both my kidneys failed. I am undergoing immense trauma since the past three years," she said. Patients like Kulkarni and Nimonkar are banking upon the NHRC to give them a fair chance at justice during these one-of its kind public hearings.
Representatives of Union health ministry, state health officials, and officials from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as well as Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) will be present at the hearings. The series of regional hearings will kickstart on November 18 and will be held over two days at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Chembur. Following the western region hearings for Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Rajasthan in Mumbai, five more hearings will occur at Chennai, Raipur, Guwahati, Lucknow and Chandigarh up to March-end.
"Patients can put forward their testimonies of rights' violations and medical negligence issues. Issues like destruction of medical records, life threatening complications in surgeries, not taking informed consent of patient before the surgeries and using patients as guinea pigs in clinical trials, exorbitant billing of patients by private hospitals, will be discussed," said Kamayani Mahabal, member, JSA.
Up to 800 patient complaints of medical negligence are pending in MMC, at state-level, for redressal. "MMC is sitting on a number of cases. The grievance redressal mechanisms in India, for patients are very weak. The patient has to move court and wait for years for justice. In Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark, there are grievance redressal cells which deliver justice in a time bound manner. India is taking baby steps towards such an idea by conducting public hearings," said Dr Abhijit More, co-convenor, JSA.
When and what
NHRC and JSA appeal to victims of violations of patients' rights to come forward and give their case details, if they are interested in participating in public hearings of healthcare violations. The first hearing will happen in Mumbai on November 18 and 19.
For registering to participate in the hearings suffering patients should write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 98207 49204 / 98206 39762
Cases will be presented before the NHRC in the public hearing