Decision to make doctors pay for health accidents draws flak

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu

Sep 19, 2017-

Amid frequent cases of vandalism of hospitals claiming doctors’ negligence in treatment, the government has proposed a controversial law that requires the attending physician to pay compensation in case of a patient’s death.

The Cabinet on Monday proposed a law that will require the treating doctor to pay compensation if investigations reveal the physician’s negligence in treatment. 

It is, however, not clear what costs the doctors are liable to if they are deemed responsible for paying “compensation”.

According to Minister for Information and Communications Mohan Bahadur Basnet, who is the government’s spokesman, the Cabinet had directed the Health Ministry to draft a bill that holds doctors accountable in view of frequent reports of doctors’ negligence while treating patients.

The Cabinet proposal, however, has drawn criticism from experts who accuse the government of taking “populist” decisions. The Nepal Medical Association (NMA), shortly after the decision, warned of shutting all the hospitals if the government did 

not correct its move within 72 hours.

The NMA says there is a provision in the Security of the Health Workers and Health Organisations Act-2010 and its regulations of compensation liability if a probe finds a doctor negligent.

“Today’s [Monday] decision is against the spirit of the Act that defames all doctors while motivating professional social criminals,” reads the NMA statement.

The vandalism and negligence of doctors and hospitals resurfaced recently after the death of a patient at a hospital in Kathmandu. On September 13, Om Hospital in Chabahil, Kathmandu, witnessed vandalism following the death of a patient. 

Forty-year-old Kamal Bhattarai, a permanent resident of Butwal, died after undergoing a surgery for her nose. 

She was admitted to the hospital on Saturday to fix problems in her nasal bone. Bhattarai’s kin blamed “negligence in treatment” for her death. The case is being probed by the ministry.

Dr Raamesh Koirala, a heart surgeon and adviser to former health minister Gagan Thapa, said the decision has many loopholes.

“First, the government is not clear on compensation. Whether this means bearing the cost incurred during treatment or the cost of the life lost? 

Who determines the cost of a lost life?” questioned Dr Koirala. 

“Also, if an investigation proves ‘negligence’, apart from the compensation, what is the action against the doctor?”

Dr Koirala said that a commission to investigate malpractices in the medical sector should be formed before putting all the blame on the health practitioner. 

“There should be a compulsory provision of malpractice insurance if the government really wants to implement the decision. Or else it is just another decision made out of whim of some ministers,” said Dr Koirala.

Malpractice insurance is “professional liability insurance” where doctors pay premium to insurance company that covers the compensation the physicians and surgeons have to pay if investigation finds their negligence in course of treatment.

Published: 19-09-2017 08:04

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