The National Human Rights Commission is awarding compensation to patients whose care was botched.

Perhaps the most vulnerable class of all, is made up of patients. In that moment of crisis—an accident, early labour, a sharp pain, an undiagnosed ailment— all of us are entirely at the mercy of the healthcare services available to us. The expertise of doctors, the efficiency of machines, the accuracy of laboratories are facts we must simply accept as true.

But for many who inhabit the fringes, wage-workers whose income falls well below the property line, villagers distant from the medical infrastructure needed to cope with emergencies, un-or under-educated people who can’t articulate their problems – for them, health care is fraught with pitfalls. An open public hearing conducted yesterday and today by the National Human Rights Commission at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai seeks to bring accountability and transparency to the processes – and to rule whether medical services were wrongly delivered, delivered late, or not delivered at all.

Patients got the chance to present their version of events, as did their doctors and the directors of health institutions that the charges of medical negligence were imputed to. Over two days, 105 cases will be adjudicated by three separate benches of the NHRC. Each bench is advised by a panel of experts, and Bench One where cases from Maharashtra were heard was presided by Justice Cyriac Joseph, and Justice SN Bhanurmath (Chairperson, State Human Rights Commission) with two other members. Mirror gives you a court-side seat.

Punarvasan Wadi
Compensation: Rs 50,000

Case: The 108 hotline emergency ambulance transferred her to a private hospital
Point: Damini Bai was in the throes of labour pain, and a representative of local NGO ASHA called State Goverment’s 108 ambulance. She was supposed to be transferred to the Nandubar district hospital, but her condition deteriorated and she was transferred to a private hospital. Damini and her farmer husband had to pay Rs 25,000 for her delivery.
Counterpoint: 108 EMS project director argued that they transferred her in private hospital in good faith, because she was in a critical state.
Verdict: Judges pointed out that the facility for birth wasn’t available in the village and they directed state health departments to pay Rs 50 thousand in compensation.

Indapur village, Pune
Compensation: Rs 1 lakh

Case: Wrongly reported as HIV positive
Point: Five months ago, a heavily pregnant Sheetal and her husband Raju Bankar went to Indapur’s Government sub-district hospital for a regular checkup. Doctors took blood samples and directed them to Pune’s Sassoon hospital for the delivery. The sub-district hospital officials didn’t tell the about Sheetal’s HIV positive report. On September 4, Sheetal was admitted to Sassoon Hospital for the delivery, where Bankar alleged that doctors and nurses were behaving badly. They started ART medicines. When the Nurse told Bankar that his wife was HIV positive he was shocked because they’d just tested at a private lab and her report was -ve.
Counterpoint: Medical superintendent of Indapur sub-district hospital accepted the mistake and apologised.
Verdict: Judges found this was a serious violation of human rights, and caused mental trauma to the patient.

Compensation: Pending

Case: Asha Suryavanshi died from a snake bite
Point: Asha’s husband Rudraji Suryavasnhi, a farmer, alleged that she needed dialysis but that facility was not available in Nanded district hospital, and that they delayed her treatment. She was admitted on 28th June, her condition deteriorated and her husband admitted her in Aurbagabad government hospital, she needed dialysis for which she had to be transferred to another hospital, which is when he took her to Aurangabad, 400 km away.
Counterpoint: Officials from Nanded district hospital claimed that the medicine was provided her within 45 minutes of her admission and that her husband took discharge against medical advice. ble at a nearby Government hospital, so there was no need for the transfer to Aurangabad.
Verdict: Case must be investigated further

Talora village in Nandurbar
Compensation: A prosthetic limb to be fitted in three months. Rs 2 lakh to be awarded within 1 month

Case: Lost his limb through negligence
Point: A young tribal man, was referred to the Nandurbar civil hospital. His toes on his right foot had been crushed in an accident. He contended that the surgery wasn’t conducted on time. Five days later, he was still waiting and gangrene had developed, at which point his leg had to be amputated till his knee. Counterpoint: The orthopaedic surgeon pled that the patient was initially in shock unready for surgery, with low blood pressure and a low haemoglobin count. When the cause for the inordinate delay of five days was probed further, it emerged that the blood required for transfusion was not available. The patient also claimed to have received only one unit of blood free of charge, and having paid for other bottles, though as a patient below the poverty line, these should all have been free to him.
Verdict: The bench held the Civil Surgeon and the Orthopaedic surgeon of the Nandurbar Civil hospital responsible for delaying Suresh’s surgery.