Pune: Distrust between doctors and patients is growing, leading to incidents of attacks on doctors and consequently strikes by doctors, who are demanding protection from relatives of patients.
This was the trigger point for Prakash Chaudhary, Vice-Principal of Ness Wadia College of Commerce, to conduct research on ‘Efficacy of Consumer Protection Act in relation to Private Medical Services in Pune’. This thesis has been accepted for the PhD degree by the Savitribai Phule Pune University.
Chaudhary said, “The act was formulated in 1986 as a result of attacks on doctors by relatives of patients on the basis of alleged negligence by doctors in conducting their duties. Many a times, relatives become aggressive if the patient dies or does not get any relief despite prolonged and expensive treatment. But the act has created a kind of rift between doctors and patients as doctors, in order to be more cautious, started doing lots of tests to even diagnose common diseases.”
“The act is applicable to all services right from telecom to medical. But initially, doctors were apprehensive about it and said that they do not fall under the ambit of the act. However, later the Supreme Court made it clear that even medical services come under it,” said Chaudhary.
“Interestingly, Pune was the first district in the country where the first consumer forum was set up in 1991 and consumer-related cases were handled,” he said.
Pendency of cases
As far the medical profession is concerned, there is lack of awareness about the act, which leads to delay or non-appointment of presidents and members and rising number of cases of medical negligence.
In the Pune District Consumer Forum (PDCF), so far 6,879 cases from different categories have been filed since 1990 till 2017, out of which only 138 (1.22 per cent) cases were related to medical negligence, which is significantly less as compared to other categories. Out of these medical cases, most of them have been decided against consumers for various reasons.
In this regard, the collective efforts of the NGOs, doctors, patients’ organisations and government can create healthy relations among them. Proper awareness about consumer protection and medical laws to doctors and hospital authority would help them become more careful and responsible while rendering medical services to the patient, which would ultimately result in minimising the instances of deficiency in medical services.
Consumer forum & solving cases
Consumers Disputes Redressal Agencies in India have been normally successful as right from its inception till the end of 2016, they have disposed 91.15 per cent cases out of the total cases of 46,88,659 filed. The PDCF from the year 2007 to end of 2016 disposed of 3,887 (57.36 per cent) cases out of the total cases of 6,776.
Shortcomings of the forum
- The Pune District Consumer Forum has never got its own and permanent infrastructure right from its inception.
- It is working with a limited staff and most of them have been on deputation from the Department of Food and Supply, which is hampering its functioning.
- There is no timely appointment of members in Pune District councils, hence its functioning is not regular and it is failing to take proactive steps to protect the rights of consumers.
- Computerisation is the need of the hour for the forum as the act has made significant impact on the medical profession in terms of increased care in documentation, clarity in instruction to medical supportive staff, better communication of information to patient and improvement in quality service to the patients.