A consumer forum has held that medical officers are not expected to go on strike as their services are urgent in nature. The forum made the observation while finding civic-run Bhabha Hospital guilty of medical negligence after one its patients, suffering from respiratory issues, died as she was left unattended following a doctors’ strike in 2003. It told the hospital to pay damages of Rs 1.5 lakh to the victim’s son.While refuting the hospital’s argument that it was not liable for the compensation since the treatment was free, the forum observed, “Neither have they given any treatment nor advised him (the victim’s son) to take discharge. Just keeping a patient in a serious condition is gross negligence.“ The forum added: “There is no question of free tre atment or with payment. Not giving any treatment despite being a patient in a serious condition, amounts to gross negligence on the part of the opponent (hospital).“

The forum said it is the duty of the doctors to give treatment. “Merely because it is a government or a corporation hospital it does not entitle that hospital to admit a patient and to keep her in a serious condition without giving any kind of treatment whether it is on payment or it is free,“ it added. The hospital will have to pay the vic tim Juliet Sequeira’s son, Santacruz-based Errol Sequeira, a total compensation of Rs 1.50 lakh.

In the complaint filed before the Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in 2005, Errol said that his mother was admitted on October 6, 2013. She suffered from chronic organic pulmonary disease. However, the next day the doctors had struck work. He further said that the nurse neither cared to record the blood pressure, pulse, temperature nor was the stool and urine monitored. As Errol’s mother started breathing heavily , wheezing and gasped for breath he sought help from the only doctor who took just a single round in the hospital through the day . Ho wever, he got no help.

He alleged that the IV drip connectors were pierced on both hands but no IV injec tion, glucose or saline was administered.

Errol said that since the doctors were unavailable, the nurses refused to administer any injections for asthma and only prescribed oral tablets. On October 8, 2003, Errol’s mother’s condition deteriorated and she died the following morning, gasping for breath.

The hospital said that the complaint was not maintainable as the service provided was free. It denied that all the doctors and staff had struck work. It claimed that the patient was well taken care of before she died.

The forum, however, pointed out that the muster roll of the period showed that the doctors were absent from work between the afternoon of October 7-14, 2003. “The doctors from ICU were present but the patient was neither shifted to ICU nor transferred to other hospital,“ the forum said.