Cancellation of Max Hospital’s License Doing More Harm Than Good?

Stranded patients protest against the Kejriwal government as Max Hospital turns them away.

Health News
5 min read

More than fifty angry people were shouting “Kejriwal murdabad” and protesting outside Max Hospital in Shalimar Bagh under the midday sun on Saturday. Reason? Patients and their families don’t know where else to go, now that they are being denied treatment at the hospital.

The license of the hospital was cancelled by the Delhi government on Friday, a week after doctors erroneously declared a living newborn dead.

While some feel this will be a deterrent for private hospitals to stop functioning irresponsibly and is a good move by the Kerjiwal government, others believe it’s a knee-jerk reaction which will do more harm than good.

So, what about the people who are regular patients there? What about emergencies that reach the hospital? How does this sudden cancellation affect people on the ground?

Patients Left In the Lurch?

30-year-old Sanjeev waves the test prescription of his relative from their previous check-ups and says angrily:

There are some complications in my sister-in-law’s pregnancy. The doctors here at Max told us to get some tests done. When we came here for that today, we were turned away as the the hospital is shut. Who will take responsibility if something happens to the baby? Arvind Kejriwal, Satyendar Jain or the investigating committee?
30-year-old Sanjeev asks for a solution for his relative who is in need of a doctor’s care.
30-year-old Sanjeev asks for a solution for his relative who is in need of a doctor’s care.
(Photo: The Quint)

Most of these people protesting outside the hospital were from the economically weaker sections (EWS).

Is there any other hospital close by where they can go instead? A man from the crowd answers:

The other private hospital in this area doesn’t take EWS patients free of cost. And you know how difficult it is to even get in line at government hospitals. Where do we go? We never had any problem at Max and our treatment always went on smoothly.

The Delhi government’s guidelines to private hospitals direct them to provide inexpensive treatment to the economically disadvantaged. Ironically, it is the same government that has now revoked the hospital’s license, stranding several of these patients.

The recalcitrant crowd’s response? Chants of “Kejriwal murdabad” and “Hospital chaalu karo”.

As we interview protesting patients outside the hospital, a woman comes forward and screams,

What will happen to my husband’s treatment now? If something befalls him, what will happen to our kids? Will Kejriwal come to our rescue and run our house?
“What will happen to my husband’s treatment now?”
“What will happen to my husband’s treatment now?”
(Photo: The Quint)

The families of patients and the staff of hospitals are typically seen at loggerheads with each other. Yet, the cancellation of Max’s licence seems to have brought them on the same side.

A 'Habitual Offender'? Did Max Have It Coming?

While many from within and outside the medical fraternity have questioned the cancellation, the Delhi government has stuck to its guns.

Describing the hospital as a habitual offender, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the hospital’s license was cancelled after it was found guilty in three other cases.

Three notices had been issued to the hospital over lapses involving the EWS (economically weaker section) quota patients and dengue fever beds. The action taken is in continuation of effect of previous notices.
Satyendar Jain, Delhi Health Minister

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did not mince his words either.

The government is improving healthcare facilities, constructing mohalla clinics and polyclinics. We don’t want to interfere in the private sector but if hospitals are looting people and showing criminal negligence, we will have to act.
Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister

However, when The Quint asked the hospital about these notices, they said all of them were responded to and resolved.

We had received notices previously, to which we responded. We thought we clarified our side and that was that. We don’t know what was unsatisfactory about them.
Anas Abdul Wajid, Spokesperson, Max Hospital
Anas Abdul Wajid (right), Max Hospital’s spokesperson, with worried patients on Saturday.
Anas Abdul Wajid (right), Max Hospital’s spokesperson, with worried patients on Saturday.
(Photo: The Quint)

What About Emergencies?

The hospital says they’re not allowed to take any new patients and only carry on the treatment of those already admitted. But with several emergencies coming their way, the authorities at Max say they’re doing an immediate examination and tending only to the life-threatening cases. In all other cases, patients are being referred to other hospitals.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Dr Kishalay Datta, in charge of the emergency wing at Max, recounts how he was scrambling to get a pregnant woman in labour admitted elsewhere.

A pregnant woman in active labour came to us, she needed to get a caesarean delivery done. We referred her to Ambedkar hospital (a government hospital) but they are just refusing to admit her. They are saying, “We cannot do anything in the next six to seven hours.”
Dr Kishalay Datta, Max Hospital
Dr Kishalay Datta, the doctor in charge of the emergency wing at Max Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.
Dr Kishalay Datta, the doctor in charge of the emergency wing at Max Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.
(Photo: The Quint)

Govt Decision Disproportionate or Deserved?

This is not a case of negligence. Errors do happen. And look, Max was quick to react. We had an internal committee investigate the matter. The services of the errant doctors was terminated. For the government to cancel the hospital’s licence even after that is harsh and disproportionate.
s Abdul Wajid, Spokesperson, Max Hosp

The president of Indian Medical Association, Dr KK Aggarwal, argues that action should have been initiated against those who are at fault but only after a proper inquiry by the Delhi Medical Council. He added that such incidents occur at government hospitals as well and if licenses are cancelled like this, all the healthcare facilities would have to be shut down.

Medical experts argue that even if the license had to be cancelled, an appropriate notice period should have been given to the hospital so that patients do not suffer.

According to the Delhi Nursing Home Registration Act, 1953, the government needs to give notice of 30 days before cancelling a licence. Responding to a question on the notice period, Satyendar Jain said it did not apply, reported The Hindu.

There’s no such thing. Under it [the Act] notice can be given for a shorter time also. The earlier notice was given for seven days. It can’t be that someone does an illegal activity and we spend three months after giving a notice.
Satyendar Jain, Delhi Health Minister

While patients stranded outside the hospital wait for a solution, where does the medication for this mess lie?

Video Editor: Ashish Maccune

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