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Doctors in the dock for arm amputation after a fracture

January 4, 2007

There is a limit to everything. And this is it! According to a Mumbai Mirror report, a poor resident of a slum ( fourteen year old Pankaj Shukla) had to have his arm amputated because Sion Hospital doctors (allegedly) postponed his surgery for three days! In the meantime the arm turned gangrenous. And where were these docs? Supposedly on leave. It was the New Year’s week-end and everyone was busy celebrating!
So this terrible tragedy could have been avoided if the docs hadn’t gone on holiday? God alone knows because Sion Hospital will now go into a massive cover-up mode as the patient is poor. We may never know if the boy was administered antibiotics, whether there was an actual shortage of staff or whether the doctors were just plain callous. Even then, I have not heard of hospitals shutting shop. Surely some medic was around?
I suspect that there are vacant posts at Sion Hospital. I searched the net and came up with a dated report about the shortage of staff at Sion Hospital.

Shortage of personnel is leading to high stress
What is more interesting however is a report on Assaults on public hospital staff by patients and their relatives: an inquiry – in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME). The article in question covers a wide range of causes and therefore I am quoting the relevant stuff here:

Respondents mentioned a shortage of personnel – either because of under-staffing or because of rampant absenteeism among the support staff. Several doctors mentioned that orderlies and ayahs are often on leave. Nurses and doctors are compelled to do jobs like crowd management, pushing trolleys, getting drugs and equipment and escorting patients between departments. This affects their interaction with patients. They also feel that such work reduces their status in the eyes of the relatives. It does not help that residents are bullied by ward staff who view them as novices…
Residents reported that absenteeism is common among senior doctors (lecturers, assistant professors and professors) who may make cursory rounds of the wards and are often missing during duty hours when they are required. This affects the quality of care and dampens the residents’ morale… the government’s recent decision to allow full-time professors and associate professors to practise privately has made the situation worse. Teachers rush to leave the teaching hospital and compensate their pay packets with a private nursing home attachment. Several doctors felt that senior doctors are not committed to patients in public hospital. A number of academic posts remain vacant and this overburdens the existing cadre of doctors.

Doctors feel they are under constant pressure to give special treatment to patients who have connections with politicians, senior government officials or senior doctors and administrators. It is common for patients to proffer a ‘note’ or letter of reference from an influential person. It is not rare to have politicians demand preferential treatment for certain patients.

It’s a shame that children like Pankaj have to suffer like this in a country which is trying to attract medical tourists. No doubt these tourists will get prompt and top notch treatment. Doctors will readily give up on their New Year’s week-end. Not their left arm though.
Sure, let the docs earn money and get rich. But what about the poor in our country? Conducting free medical camps is simply not enough. The system itself has to change and for this the doctors alone cannot be blamed. We need political will…

Update 5th January: Just as I thought the doctors at Sion Hospital are denying any negligence. They insist that the boy was given antibiotics and his wound was cleaned. Delaying the operation did not cause the gangrene either they say…the boy must have got the germs from the playground where he fell and broke his arm. As I am not a doctor I cannot refute this. However it is a fact that the operation was delayed. Assuming that the gangrene would have happened anyway is an assumption I am not willing to make. The doctors, in my eyes, are still suspect.

Related Reading: India is facing a shortage of doctors
Indian doctors lose court case to stay on in Britain
Docs to be penalised for lack of post operative care
Mob violence against doctors a problem in India
India is not feeling the doctor vacuum

2 Comments leave one →
  1. kidpieces permalink
    January 5, 2007 5:23 am

    its funny if anybody gone tru all the study and financial hassles to be a doctors just to get rich and more money, without a passion to treat the sick. guess they only have passion for wealthiness not humanities.

    nice review 🙂

  2. March 30, 2009 8:40 am

    doctors have become greedy now.. they want money and fame.. they are so pride of themselves and when it comes to heal the poor people, they take them as objects.. is it fair? We must voice out for such atrocities..

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