Govt for hospital regulation following Nigerian’s death

Tobi Ajisegbede with his mother, Juliet. SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The state government called on the public to report overcharging by hospitals and said it will look into enhancing protection of patients in the wake of a Deccan Herald news report on April 25, detailing the death of a Nigerian national at Manipal Hospitals.

Speaking to DH, principal secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Jawaid Akhtar said that a provision exists within the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act, allowing the public to report any hospital, dispensary or clinic that charges more than the established rate for services and care.

“Public must file complaints with the health and family welfare commissioner, who is the chairman of the expert committee. An inquiry will be conducted and action will be taken,” he said and suggested that Tobi Ajisegbede of Lagos, Nigeria, who lost his mother, Juliet, at Manipal Hospitals on April 14, should write to the commissioner, asking him to initiate an inquiry.

Activists and lawyers pointed out that while the KPME Act can address matters of financial abuse, it offers little in the way of offering succour to victims of negligence.

Vijayakumar Seetappa of the medical watchdog, Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali, said a few Indian victims of negligence are able to get justice, much less than the thousands of foreign visitors who come for medical care.

“There is no mechanism for redressal at all because medical care in India exists in a regulatory vacuum,” Seetappa said.

City-based lawyer Taji George, who holds the same view, provided evidence of several cases of negligence by hospitals. “About 10% of all medical failures are a result of negligence and most of the victims are foreigners,” George said. “And, what is the government doing? Nothing.”

Though the government mandates treatment rates, George said that a few hospitals display figures right, leading to exorbitant charges for treatment.

With increasing cases of negligence, Akhtar said the government will strengthen regulations. “We are planning to appraise and train our people to be more vigilant,” he said. However, the system will only work if the public files complaints with the committee, the principal secretary added. 

A recap of the case

Tobi Ajisegbede from Lagos, Nigeria, who lost his 58-year-old mother at Manipal Hospitals on April 14, alleged medical negligence of the hospital staff, and a pattern of extortion by the administration. 

For $10,000 (Rs 6,98,000), the hospital offered quick and effective results to Ajisegbede’s mother who was suffering from Lumbar Canal Stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal, compressing the nerves). But what ensued, according to Ajisegbede, was five months of prolonged treatment, which not only cost him and his family over $20,000 (Rs 13,96,000) but also his mother’s life

Overview of medical tourism

Between 2014 and 2015, there were 4,60,000 foreigners who sought some form of treatment in Indian hospitals — 41,237 of whom had come to India on medical visas. According to figures from the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics of India, these tourists added Rs 5,800,000,000 ($86.6 million) to the Indian economy.

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