Max hospital licence cancellation too harsh, agree experts

The Delhi government's decision to cancel the licence of a Max Hospitals unit in the capital (See: Delhi's Max hospital loses licence over classifying live baby as dead) has united private hospital chains in accusing the authorities of targeting the private sector that they said is bridging the wide gap in healthcare services due to poor investment in public facilities.

On Friday, Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain cancelled the licence of Max Super Specialty Hospital in Shalimar Bagh after a premature baby was wrongly declared dead.

India's woeful public health services have opened the field for private players. In such a scenario, private hospitals said, the government, instead of over regulation, should be supporting them serve patients better.

This is the first time that a big chain of private hospitals in the national capital has faced such action from the government. ''There is zero tolerance for cases of criminal negligence. We will not accept any kind of lax attitude in dealing with the lives of patients,'' Jain had said.

Bhupindra Singh, chairman of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), said in a tweet, "Cancellation of licence is no solution; but there is certainly a need for some creative disruption," he said in a tweet.

The Indian Medical Association has termed the cancellation of the license "too harsh a step". It said if all hospitals start facing similar situations when patients die due to mistakes, then healthcare will come to a halt.

IMA President K K Aggarwal, a cardiologist, said the government decision was "not in the interest of the society".

"I personally feel it was wrong. The government has taken a wrong decision ... for a mistake that occurred at the level of a doctor, the licence of the hospital should not be cancelled," he said.

The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) also termed the city government's decision to cancel the license of Max in Shalimar Bagh as "irrational and autocratic".

The doctors' body said that the government should have waited for the report of the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) on the issue which is expected in a few days.

It said it will give a call for a strike if needed and will appeal to the government to revoke the license cancellation.

Echoing the IMA, the DMA said that while the investigation against the doctors concerned was expected, the decision to cancel the hospital license was harsh.

"Cancelling the license and the decision to shut the entire hospital is irrational and autocratic. Private hospitals bear 80 per cent of the burden of patients in Delhi. Investigation against the concerned doctors or staff is expected but why should all other departments and the hospital suffer," DMA's Ashwini Goyal said.

Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, managing director of the publicly-traded Narayana Health, said, "My personal belief is, this is a wrong move. Instead of giving enough notice, they just cancelled the licence.

"What about patients who have to go for emergency services? We are holding the private sector so much accountable, why are the same standards not applied for the public sector?"

According to him, every error cannot be termed negligence and patients have several fora such as Medical Council of India and consumer courts to raise grievances against hospitals or doctors.

Health minister Jain said, "We do not have any problem with private hospitals but we cannot tolerate criminal negligence," adding that Max was a repeat offender, as his ministry had received several complaints against the hospital.

The license of Shalimar Bagh unit of Max Hospital was cancelled after a newborn was mistakenly declared dead by the hospital.

The baby boy, who was 22 weeks premature, was declared dead by the hospital on November 30 and handed over to the parents in a plastic bag, along with his still-born sister.

However, the baby started moving while being taken for last rites. The baby was then admitted in North Delhi's Agarwal Nursing Home, but died last Wednesday.

According to DNA, the Delhi Medical Council in 2017 received 23 complaints against Max hospitals in Delhi. Six complaints were received against Max hospital in Shalimar Bagh.

The medical council in 2017 has received a total of 234 complaints against the various hospitals in the capital. Out of this, 82 have moved to the disciplinary committee for action.

The healthcare sector is the fifth largest employer in India with every hospital bed generating five direct jobs and an exponential number of indirect jobs with a wide gap in demand and supply, Sunita Reddy of Apollo Hospitals, India's largest hospital chain, said.

"With 700,000 beds needed per year for the next 10 years to bridge the gap, the government should recognise healthcare can be the next engine of India's economic growth."