Docs under attack: Eight booked for attack on hospital staff over death of foetus in Kerala

The incident occurred just a week after the Kerala High Court directed the state government to register an FIR within an hour if a doctor or staff were attacked.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Dec 24, 2022 | 7:32 PM Updated Dec 24, 2022 | 7:47 PM

Relatives rough up doctors and other hospital staff over the death of a foetus in Kerala (Screengrab)

The relatives of a pregnant woman, whose baby died in the womb due to complications, beat up doctors at a private hospital in Pezhakkappilly near Muvattupuzha, alleging negligence.

The incident, which occurred on Friday, 23 December, comes close on the heels of the Kerala High Court directing the state government to register an FIR within an hour if a doctor or medical staff in a hospital were attacked by those accompanying patients.

What happened

“The family locked us up for almost an hour, slapped me and my doctors and even threatened to kill us. We lodged an FIR at Muvattupuzha police station,” said Sabu George, CEO of the Sabine Hospital and Research Centre.

According to George, the woman, who was in the ninth month of pregnancy, had come to the hospital for a check-up last week.

The treating gynaecologist had informed the patient that she had low fluid levels and should get herself admitted to the hospital early, he told South First.

“However, the patient’s family refused to get admitted and said they would come when the labour pain starts as they stayed close to the hospital,” George said.

On Friday, the woman called the doctor and said that the movement of the baby had reduced. The doctor asked the patient to come at 10 am and get herself admitted, George said.

But the family, according to George, came to the hospital only around 2.45 pm. The doctor who checked the patient could not detect any foetal movement and called for a Cardiotocography (CTG) check followed by an abdominal scan which confirmed Intra Uterine death of the foetus.

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Family enraged

“As a policy we have to inform the patient’s family about the issue before going ahead with the labour. We have a counselling room next to the labour room where we assembled her family members, about five of them, and broke the unfortunate news,” George explained.

The family, including patient’s husband, was enraged and began to hurl abuses at the doctors and tried to videograph them. They were particularly angry at two doctors, Dr Smita Girish, Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, and Dr Renjith John Jacob, who broke the news to the family.

Meanwhile, George, few other staff members and security guards went inside the room to try and convince the family members that the death was not due the hospital or the doctor’s negligence, as they were claiming.

“Nearly 10 more people barged into the hospital and locked me and our doctors inside the counselling room and slapped me twice and beat up my doctors,” Sabu alleged.

The CEO said that the family was videographing the  whole incident. The hospital staff also tried to videograph it, according to him.

Despite the requests from some relatives of the woman, they did not allow the doctor to treat her. Instead, they got her discharged and admitted in another hospital where she is said to be recovering well.

Family claims negligence by doctors

Speaking to TV news channels, the family claimed that the hospital authorities and the doctors had been negligent in their treatment leading to the death of the foetus.

In a version that is at variance with the hospital’s, the relatives alleged that though they reached the hospital much earlier, the pregnant woman was not attended to by doctors immediately and she did not get proper medical care on time, which led to the death.

Sabu George, however, insisted the woman was advised admission there three days ago, but she did not come citing inconvenience.

According to George, a report from the MOSC Medical College in Kolanchery in Muvattupuzha, where the woman was shifted, the death of the foetus occurred one to two days back.

He said that the cord was coiled around abdomen and also around the neck of the foetus.

In a video which had gone viral on social media, the angry family members can be seen pushing doctors and other hospital staff and beating them up when they tried to convince them.

However, South First is awaiting information from the grieving relatives to know their version.

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FIR lodged

A complaint was filed at the local police station and the two doctors who were attacked along with the CEO have got their check-up done at a government hospital for a Medico Legal Case, George told South First.

Eight people, including the husband of the woman, were booked based on the complaint by the hospital management.

Taking cognizance of numerous attacks against health care workers in the state, the Kerala Health Department on 29 November had decided to reduce the number of “bystanders” (caretakers) allowed with a patient to one.

The Kerala High Court recently ordered the police to register FIRs within one hour from the time any crime against doctors, nurses or other healthcare workers, is reported (Kerala Private Hospitals Association v. Adv. Sabu P Joseph & Ors).

A division bench consisting of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagath clarified that this can be done for offences under the special law or the Indian Penal Code (IPC) but it should be done within one hour from the time the crime is reported to ensure quick action against the perpetrators