All is not well in the high corridors of hospitals

Are patients being given an adequate say in the treatment they receive?

Almost one year ago, Jehangir Cama, a respected hotelier, who was the former President of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India, and the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce, walked into a multi-speciality cardiac care corporate hospital in Ahmedabad with a patch of pneumonia. He never walked out.

Article by Mehroo Cama | The Hindu BusinessLine


While the loss is irreplaceable, the hospital experience has urged me to think about whether we should handle procedures differently. For instance, in my husband’s case, could a specialist (cardiologist) have been brought much earlier into the treatment?

It is my opinion that resident staff and doctors in many parts of the country are perhaps not sufficiently qualified to handle complications. But unfortunately, hospitals often rule that only they can call the specialist or even the admitting doctor. Only affiliated doctors – even one’s family doctor or specialist (who knows and understands the patient better) is not allowed to participate in consultations on the ongoing treatment of the patient.

Corporate hospitals are mushrooming everywhere and have become a multi-crore business. But I do believe they need to bring in more regard for the sanctity of life.

For example, medical officers and nursing staff in some cases, we are told, are hired by an employment agency. But shouldn’t there be a professional assessment to ascertain their knowledge and skills and whether they have an MBBS, Ayurvedic or Homeopathic degree?

I witnessed some very disturbing hospital situations, including one where a nurse held the glucometer upside down reading 66 instead of 99! I am told that nurses and other staff are trained for about three months and learn the rest on the job. Sometimes, basic records like those of blood pressure are confused with pulse rate and nurses are seen struggling while administering intravenous injections.

A patient’s family needs to be alert as often medical equipment in the wards and even in the ICCU, do not always function properly. It is not uncommon to find doctors and nurses in the ICCU asleep on night duty. Patient’s families should not feel inhibited to point out such lapses to higher authorities and insist that they set it right. We feel reluctant to complain as the patient’s (our loved one’s) life is in their hands.

Take the other case of isolation wards meant to prevent cross-infection. It defeats its very purpose if the A/C does not function optimally and the patient cannot be isolated. Often, there are several medical procedures recommended to patients and families, raising questions on whether they were actually required.

Hospitals should revisit the unhealthy trend of having doctors meet “targets” as it could lead to pressure to ensure that ICCU beds are fully occupied and maximum ventilators used. And more worrisome, does all this equipment get adequately sterilised?

We advise family and friends to choose a hospital where your own family doctor and the specialist of your choice is attached, so as to monitor and check negligence. Get a second opinion on the hospital before deciding on admission. Be cautious before resorting to a ventilator as maximum fatal infections occur in ICCUs. It is your legal right to demand all daily medical records, in case of legal action for medical negligence, wrong billing or simply overcharging. From the reports, many acts of negligence and omission become clear. Be vigilant at all times. If you are forewarned, then you are forearmed.

The writer is the wife of Jehangir Cama, and Chairman, Cama Hotels Ltd, and MD, Cama Motors (P) Ltd. The views expressed are personal.