Surgical patient admitted in a medical ward and also left unattended - Court holds hospital negligent

November 23, 2023

Once a patient is admitted and a confirmed diagnosis is made which requires surgical intervention, proceeding with the procedure at the earliest – as the case may be – and admitting the patient in relevant ward is mandated by both, treatment protocols and law; and not doing so could be construed as negligence.

Irrefutable Facts

The patient with a diagnosis of the liver abscess was referred to the hospital for better management. The doctors admitted him to the medical ward.

His condition, however, continued to deteriorate. He was taken up for surgery about 36 hours after admission. Post-surgery, the patient was shifted to the ICU and put on ventilator. He died after 10 days.

The family sued the hospital, alleging that the patient was already diagnosed with liver abscess when brought to the hospital, yet he was admitted in medical ward and not the surgical ward.

It was further alleged that the patient was left unattended for 36 hours, and the surgery was performed too late.

Hospital’s Plea

The hospital denied the allegations and stated that patient was correctly diagnosed and treatment was rendered as per standard protocol. It was also stated that correct diagnosis of ruptured liver abscess with septicaemia was confirmed within 24 hours of admission and appropriate steps to correct the same were taken.

Court’s Observations

The State Consumer Commission perused medical records and dismissed the hospital’s claims.

It was observed that patient was a case of ‘liver abscess ruptured into peritoneum, septicaemic, ac. renal failure and hence accepted the allegation that the patient should have been admitted at the outset to the surgical ward and not the medical ward.

The court drew an adverse inference from the fact that the patient was lying in the medical ward unattended under the care of nurses for 36 hours, observing that “timely detection and the treatment could have helped the patient”.

The hospital was held negligent and ordered to pay compensation to patient’s family.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

  1. Admit the patient at the outset, to the appropriate ward and under the relevant speciality, especially when the diagnosis is known beforehand. If a diagnosis is made after admission and the patient requires treatment by a different speciality then the patient has to be transferred at the earliest under the appropriate speciality and/or to the designated ward.   
  2. Act with a sense of urgency if the patient / condition demands so. This aspect is all the more necessary in the case of hospitalized / critical patients. Lack of urgency could be construed as negligence by the courts.

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Source : 15MLCD (j17) Narendra Kumar Sengar v/s The Director General, Railway Hospital & Ors.