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P D Hinduja National Hospital in Mahim was on Thursday ordered to pay a patient Rs 3.50 lakh compensation after she broke her ankle in a wheel chair accident when she returned to the hospital for a check-up after a successful spinal surgery in 2012. The woman, Harsha Lala, was being taken to the OPD from the gate in a wheelchair handled by the hospital security guard when she fell on the ramp.

Holding the hospital guilty of deficiency in service, the state consumer commission said that even if a hospital employee is permanent or on contract basis, the hospital is vicariously liable for irresponsible and negligent behaviour.

“Patient safety is a very important aspect when any patient enters the premises of hospital and it is the hospital’s legal responsibility to protect patient’s safety,” the commission said.

It also reprimanded the hospital for not telling the patient in advance that the treating doctor was absent on the appointment day.

Lala, an Andheri resident, had moved the district forum in 2014. In 2015, the forum held the hospital guilty of “medical negligence” and directed it to pay compensation of Rs 1 lakh. The hospital moved Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in 2016.

Lala told the commission that she had undergone surgery at the hospital on September 24, 2012 and had paid Rs 3.56 lakh. On October 9, she was at the hospital for a follow-up when the accident took place. She blamed hospital security staff for the negligence.

The hospital said Lalahad not fastened the safety belt on the wheelchair. It questioned if negligent and rash act of staff other than doctors could be “medical negligence”.

The commission said it is actually deficiency in service on the hospital’s part and enhanced the compensation to Rs 3.50 lakh.