Doctors all over the world take the Hippocratic Oath (“Service above self”, i.e. patient’s wellbeing above our own comforts, aspirations, avarice and rising above the constraints of religion, caste and nationality) after graduation but 99% of them do not even remember the first few lines leave alone the whole oath. Doctors are human and one has to ignore many errors as there is always a scope for human error and none of us is perfect. But gross negligence and casual treatment of a patient who is going for Spinal Fusion is not excusable.
1. 16th August I met Dr.Subaiah at MJ Naidu Hospital around noon. My niece who lives in Hyderabad, close to Sunshine Hospitals, updated the Doctor of my previous surgery and present condition through test reports and MRI images. Doctor said that he would like to see me personally and as he was visiting Dr.MJ Naidu’s clinic on weekends it wouldn’t be a problem. I took an appointment and reached the hospital at 9.30 am itself along with my daughter, but was told that doctor would be available only after an hour. I could barely sit and was lying down in the car propped with pillows. We went back home and came back to the hospital and met the doctor. I found him to be a very genial, warm person who made me feel that I was in good hands. He explained my condition in detail after checking out my reports and MRI scans. He said that Spinal fusion would be the best option in my case, if I wanted to lead a normal life. I asked him if I need to go to Sunshine Hospitals in Hyderabad for treatment or I could undergo the surgery here, in Vijayawada itself. Doctor said that there was hardly any difference between the two as he would be doing the surgery anyways. He was ready to do the Surgery on 16th evening or 17th morning. But I asked him for some more time as I had to get the funds ready for the surgery. I asked for a tentative amount for the surgery in whole like a package. Doctor quoted 2.30 lakhs. Being a single woman and trying to make ends meet for myself and my kids, I asked if I could be given a better deal, as the surgery would not be covered by Insurance. The Doctor was most accommodating and quoted 2.10 lakhs. Which he said could be the final figure. Doctor was unsure of his weekend visit the next week and asked me to call him for confirmation. I called him on Tuesday and he said he would be in Vja by 23rd August, noon and would do the surgery in the evening.
2. On 22st August, I went to the hospital to meet Mr.Dilip, the admin and understand the pre- surgery details. Mr.Dilip, met us very warmly and asked us to be seated to discuss the terms. We spoke about the pre and post-operative bills which would be covered by my insurance and he said that he would do his best. On asking about the total amount, he was evasive and said he would let us know after talking to the doctors. He asked me to go for a blood test, ECG and an Echo. I was wheeled to the lab and my blood was taken and even the ECG done soon but I had to wait there alone for more than an hour as the Doctor who did the Echo test was not available. By that time I came to know that doctor may conduct the surgery on early Sunday morning as he would reach Vja late night. So I opted to go home and get the echo done the next day when I was admitted.Dilip told us that I need to be admitted on Saturday afternoon itself as the Anaesthetic could check me out.
3. ON 23rd August, I was admitted into the private ward of MJ Naidu hospitals around 4 pm.The echo was done and my BP checked around 7pm but there was no sign of the anaesthetist at all. The bed sheet laid by the hospital surely had bed bugs as I broke into a rash within half an hour.i then changed their sheets with mine.The washroom was home to at least 4 healthy cockroaches who were apparently feasting on the garbage. I had to ask for a repellent gel from home to exterminate them. I was not informed about my fasting hours before the surgery until 10pm in the night. I was told that I could not eat anything after 12 midnight. Not knowing this I did not have my dinner and at 10pm there was nothing to eat too. I was asked to relax and have a good night’s sleep. Around 1.30 am I was woken up suddenly by a loud banging on the door.(they haven’t been taught how to knock apparently) Two ayahs walked in and said that I need to be shaved. They did not have a razor or even a soap for lather. They shaved my pubic area with a small, dry blade.(my surgery was on the lower back and I do not know why a shave was needed) My daughter offered the ayahs a 100/- but they said that the going rate was 300/-.They asked me to be showered and ready in the surgical gown by 5am in the morning .
4. 24th August, 5 am I was all fresh and ready to face the day and the surgery. The ayahs came to take me to the Theatre in a wheelchair after 6.30. I was accompanied by my daughter who was carrying an amount of one lakh as we thought that they would make us pay the fee before the surgery itself. Once I reached the theatre I was told that it was not yet ready and asked to lie down in the waiting room. The bed sheet I was asked to lie on was soiled and the pillow which was without a cover was smeared with blood. It made me feel nauseated and the doctors talk of hygiene in and outside the theatre. Dr.Subaiah admonished the theatre attendants for not getting the OT ready as he had instructed them to have it ready at 5am. After a long wait I was asked to head to the OT.
5. I preferred to walk into the OT rather than climb the high stretcher. The attendants led me inside and I found the anaesthetist getting his act ready. I lay on the operating table and he came up to me and asked me if I was a local.Small talk over he started looking for my veins to poke in to. He reached for the inside of my right arm and I asked him not to poke me there as it would be uncomfortable to keep it steady. He was struggling to find the vein and was holding the syringe. I informed him that my veins were too thin and it would only take a 22 size needle. He took heed of that and poked me with the anaesthesia. I lost consciousness almost immediately. I was turned over on the table, with my body resting on 4 raised blocks. He admonished the attendants for not bringing me on the stretcher.
6. Now began the nightmare … the doctor cut the skin on my spine with the scalpel and laid the skin aside. I felt the pain of the cut and slicing of my skin. I thought I was hallucinating due to the anaesthesia, but then doctor started grinding the vertebrae or bone with a grinder which gave a grating sound just like the one workers use to cut tiles or marble, he sawed my bone. He then made a hole in the bone to fit the screw in.He hammered in the four screws after making holes I assumed that he put a cage inside.He then hammered the screws again to hold the cage securely. In the meanwhile he was asking the male nurses why his instrument was not used to put in the screw. Male nurse replied that the same was being used by all the doctors and Dr.Subaiah’s was not. The doctor kept asking for suction and in the middle even lost his patience when the person with the suction was slow.
7. I was giving out ear-splitting screams but my voice wasn’t being heard. I even bit my tongue hard in order to repress the pain but nothing helped. I was trying to move my hands and head to draw their attention but nothing happened. I was waiting for the torture to end and felt as if I would die on the operating table itself. I said my last prayers and thought of my son, daughter, and daughter-in- law and my month old grandson. The pain was excruciating and it was far worse than what hell is made out to be. Due to the muscle relaxant along with the anaesthesia I could not move but the anaesthesia itself did not work.
8. At last the doc said he was leaving and they could sew me up. One of the attendants reminded the doctor that I had asked for cosmetic sutures as normal ones would leave an ugly scar. But the doc said carry on with normal sutures and left.
9. The attendants then started talking amongst themselves. One said …” Poor thing she asked for cosmetic sutures and we are giving her plain”
10. The other attendant said…” What can we do, we can only follow instructions”. Then they started talking about a nurse who was present that day even though it was a Sunday and she usually never turned up on Sundays. They gave me the sutures and I bore the pain further…of my skin being stitched up with sutures and then stapled as if I was a piece of cardboard.
11. I was at last turned over and the suction pipe was thrust roughly into my mouth and I was asked if I was ok. I was trying to scream for the doctor but my voice was stifled. I was croaking, asking for doctor, doctor. I told them that the anaesthesia did not work but nobody paid any heed to my croaking complaints and they shifted me to the ICU. I saw my family and burst out crying and related the gory experience I went through. My daughter and my siblings were shocked and ran around for the doctor who was already attending to other out patients. The anaesthetist came to me later and said that he had given the right dose. I was angry and asked him to go out of my sight. The doctor came after an hour and half and told me that the operation was successful but refused to even listen to my grievance.
12. I have nothing against the doctor. He had done his job and the surgery was successful!
13. The next day the anaesthetist asked one of my family to go and talk to him in the ICU about the “surgery incident” .How can anybody other than me know what I went through? Then I asked him to come to my room and talk to me.He came to me the next day and said. Sorry! As if a sorry was enough to wipe out all the physical and mental trauma I was put through. It was far worse than the third degree the police use on hardened criminals. The anaesthetist went on singing paeans about his career when what I wanted was a redress of my problem. He further went on to say that he thought or assumed my weight to be 60 kgs when in reality it is around 70kgs. The dose he gave was a for a 60kg person. He didn’t even know my age and he further stated that I had a short neck which could have made the breathing difficult!
14. For a patient going for a major surgery, doesn’t the anaesthetist have to be doubly sure about a 50yr old patient’s medical history or even personal details? He admitted to have worked on guess work!
15. My stay in the ICU was ok except for an old man making a nuisance of himself and depriving the other patients of a good night’s sleep.i was taken for a post operative X-ray from the ICU but I have not seen the bill of 400/- for it nor the X-ray itself.
16. The cannula at the time of anaesthesia lasted till I was shifted to the room. But it had to be shifted as the blood in it was clotted. I have never been afraid of surgeries or injections but now the sight of the nurse with the syringe made me cringe in pain.
17. To make matters worse, the nurses were incapable of finding a vein to put in the cannula. Although my sciatica pain was better the wound at the place of surgery was raw and paining. On 25th evening around 6pm I asked the nurse on duty for a painkiller. I also inquired if the doctor had prescribed any antibiotics and painkillers. The nurse audaciously asked me if the pain was unbearable and if I really needed a painkiller. She came back around 10.30 pm with a senior nurse from the ICU and gave me the antibiotic and the painkiller but even this was not without a drama. First I was poked 3 times before they found a vein to put the cannula in and then while injecting the medicine into it, the syringe burst open not once but three times.
18. The next day too I had to ask Dr.Naidu if I had to take any medicine and what was the post-operative care given to me? He walked in with an entourage of doctors and asked if I was comfortable. Mr.Dilip kept on insisting that I change my room and shift to a bigger and better one with a scenic view. All these were like carrots or sops for me to compensate for the negligent anaesthesia and post-operative care.
19. I had started standing and walking with a brace with the help of the physiotherapists. Another point to be noted was that…..all the ayahs and male attendants asked to be tipped for every little thing they did ….like pushing the wheelchair or even administering me a glycerine capsule for my constipation.
20. I am not very poor but even then I am not filthy rich that I could afford to grease their already sticky palms with a 100 buck note each time they came to my room to help! It was surely a huge drain and strain on my pocket.
21. The next day one of the nurses came and told me that my file had been sent to the reception for billing and that I would be discharged the same day on Dr.Naidu’s orders. This was news to me as Mr. Naidu who had come early morning on his rounds did not mention even once that I was being discharged. I was not given a bill even then and didn’t know how much I had to shell out. Mr.Dilip walked in at lunch time and I asked him for the amount to be paid but he kept on hedging the issue .But after a long drawn out conversation he concluded that it would be around 2.10 lakhs. But I told him that if I had a package deal why was I asked to pay for the medications after the surgery? He had no answer for that. I said I was ready to pay the bill but then who would compensate for the mental and physical trauma I was put through. He tried to evade the issue but I kept on asking him about it as we were asked to vacate the room the same day. He then said that he would talk to Dr.Naidu and get back to me soon. I waited till 6 pm but there was no sign of Mr.Dilip. I called him a number of times but every time the answer was…the mobile you are calling is temporarily switched off.
22. My sister, who was with me at the hospital throughout my stay, started packing all our stuff as the driver was coming to drive us home. He came around 7.30 and took all are belongings and put them in the car. We walked down slowly to the entrance and the receptionist and others started shouting that I was leaving without paying the bill! I never got a bill but was asked to check out. How could I pay it? Mr.Dilip ordered the ayah to take me to his room and he was very rude and treated me very shoddily. He said I could do whatever I want, could complain to whomever I want and I had to pay the full amount and leave. I tried to calm him down but he kept on shouting.
23. I never once said I would not pay. In fact my daughter was carrying 1 lakh rupees in her bag all the time before and after the surgery but nobody asked for it. My daughter had gone back to Ahmedabad and my sister who is from Delhi barely knew where my money was. I told Mr.Dilip that I would go home and send the money with my driver. He started yelling and asked the security to shut the doors to prevent me from going out. I also asked him to send one of the billing guys with me to collect the amount which was in my locker at home and in the bank and I had to draw it from the ATM. Mr.Dilip was like a bull in a rage. He still hadn’t given me the bill and asked the bill to be prepared at that time and given to me.I said as it was a package deal he had to cut the pharmacy amount. I was given the bill at last and I had my driver and 2 other guys from my brothers office negotiating on my behalf and then I was allowed to go home around 9pm with 3 guys from the hospital following us. I stopped at an ATM, drew out the amount, went home and added the money that I had lying at home and paid my hospital bill.
24. The ungentlemanly and callous attitude of the doctors and hospital staff made me resolve and determined to go to the consumer court and file a case against the hospital. When Mr.Dilip had come to my room, earlier in the day, I had told him that we could settle the matter amicably as I did not want to go legal. Going legal would tarnish the reputed name of the hospital and the doctors who were really not to blame but Mr.Dilip took it as an affront to his king sized ego and asked me to go ahead with the legal notice.
25.The nightmare still continues…
I went to the hospital to get my stitches removed at around 11am.I waited for 1 1/2 hour just for the tool kit to come from the ground floor. After that I saw the doc again and he asked me for an X-ray.I thought it would be over in minutes but I was in for a shocker…There was a long queue at the one X-ray machine room and tempers were running high.I had to wait for my turn even though I was still in pain.There are not enough chairs or facility for the patients to sit and wait. The X-ray room is right on the main passage.When I came for the X-ray post operation from the ICU, I was wheeled into the Xray room without waiting for my turn.But now that my surgery was done with they didn’t even care for my condition.After a 2 hour wait I got my turn and again reverted to the doc to show it.The doctor saw the Xray and said that my skin was healing and I should see him again after 2 months.
26. I visited the hospital again on the 15th of November at 12 noon and went to the doctor.He again asked me for an X-ray.I went down to the X-ray room which was surrounded by harried patients waiting for their turn.I had to keep standing for nearly 3 hours waiting for my turn.I was in pain post surgery but I saw that even elderly patients were asked to wait.Some had come with their food and water from home , knowing that it would take them the whole day at the hospital. I am educated and know where to go and get my X-ray but for those who couldn’t read it was a merry go round.The male workers inside are rough and treat your body like a piece of log.Pulling, shoving and pushing according to the X-ray machine.I saw that there was a steady flow of patients into the hospital and a long queue at the payment counter only meant that the hospital was making a lot of money.Then why don’t they provide basic comfort to the patients which would ease heir agony. Almost all the patients were getting irritated and complaining about this system but no one gives you a hearing.
As it is you are at the hospital because you are ill and this type of treatment of ill patients is deplorable.
25. I spoke to my lawyer and the local consumer forum but they ask for evidence.I have lived through it and I didnt know then that I had to take pictures or record voices to complain later.
26. This is just a short summary of the trauma I went through so you can imagine the permanent scars it has left on my psyche and created a phobia for hospitals and doctors.
Will I and the hoards of patients at the hospital ever get justice? Will anyone check what is going on there?
I am looking for answers!!