The apex consumer commission has castigated the Employees State Insurance (ESI) Corporation and its hospitals, saying it was "beyond imagination" that this national organisation does not have proper facilities to treat millions of people.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, headed by presiding member B C Gupta, also allowed a revision petition filed by one A Nageswara Rao, whose wife died in 2007 after being hospitalised in Vijayawada, and directed the ESI Corporation to pay Rs 2 lakh as compensation and Rs 5,000 as litigation cost to him for their "clear-cut deficiency".
The NCDRC set aside the Andhra Pradesh state commission order and said the ESI hospitals were bound to ensure that their patients do not suffer.
"It is beyond imagination to comprehend that the petitioner, which is a national-level organisation entrusted with the responsibility of looking after health of millions of employees and their families, do not have proper arrangements to ensure that the needy patients are subjected to proper and prompt treatment within their own hospitals, or in the hospitals where they have made tie-up arrangements," it said.
"It is thus their bound duty to ensure that patients do not have to suffer on account of completion of administrative formalities only," the NCDRC added.
According to the complaint filed in the district consumer forum, Rao, a retired employee and member of ESIC scheme, had taken his wife to a ESIC hospital on January 17, 2007 as she was suffering from hypertension and heart ailment.
She was referred to government Medical College hospital in Vijayawada from where she was discharged a day after, the complaint said, adding she was taken to the same hospital six days later and admitted to the general ward, where she died on February 4, 2007.
It was alleged in the complaint that the hospital, which lacked basic monitoring facilities, had even failed to refer her to a super-speciality hospital.
The hospital contended before the district forum that it cannot refer a patient for super-speciality treatment without an eligibility letter issued by the ESI Corporation.
The NCDRC held that the hospital's version made it clear that it should have referred the patient to a super-speciality hospital, but kept her in their general ward where they did not even have a cardiology department.
"There is, therefore, clear-cut deficiency on the part of the OPs (ESI hospital and ESIC) in the present case, when they had proper diagnosis done from the government hospital, Vijayawada and still, they decided to keep the patient admitted in their own hospital," commission observed.
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