State Info Commission order follows petition relating to discharge summary

The State Information Commission has ordered the Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, “to respond clearly, fully and in detail” to a road accident victim about procedures for obtaining a discharge summary.

The order follows a petition to the commission by G. Sivakumar, who stated that denial of these details had prevented him from seeking compensation.

Mr. Sivakumar, who sustained multiple fractures in his leg in an accident, was taken to the hospital on April 1 last year, for treatment. A week later, he sought a discharge against medical advice. Despite repeated requests, he was not provided with a discharge summary. Hospital authorities cited lack of specific government orders in this regard.

When the petitioner wanted a wound certificate, he was told that since he had been discharged against medical advice, this would not be provided to him.

Using the Right to Information Act, he sought to find out if he had the right to be informed about the treatment provided to him. The hospital replied that queries about patient rights should be referred to the judiciary.

After Mr. Sivakumar petitioned the health secretary, the director of medical education as well as the hospital dean for a discharge summary, the hospital authorities sent him a letter asking the patient to come to the hospital on June 13.

Mr. Sivakumar sent his wife, as he was recuperating from surgery to his broken knees. He wanted to know why the papers were not handed over to her.

The hospital's response was that the patient had sent his wife instead of coming in person. Besides, the query does not make it clear who promised to provide the discharge summary, the hospital stated.

Citing Article 21 of the Constitution, the patient sought to know the rules and procedures adopted to provide a discharge summary or wound certificate.

The hospital's response was: “We do not know about the Constitution. Also, there is no written proof that the patient had sought a discharge summary on the day of leaving the hospital.”

The petitioner wanted to know why the hospital had refused to provide the wound certificate although police records and the accident register at the hospital clearly stated his injuries.

According to hospital authorities, the accident register remains with the casualty ward and is not provided to the department. Had the patient completed his treatment, a final opinion on his wounds would have been provided to him.

To the question on the patient's right in seeking a discharge summary or a wound certificate and the action taken by the hospital to provide them in case a patient wishes to get medical attention elsewhere, the response was: This hospital has all facilities. A patient who is discharged is asked to come for follow-up. An individual has all rights to seek treatment at a government hospital.

Mr. Sivakumar's lawyer, V.S. Suresh said: “We filed for compensation at the Accident Claims Tribunal in July. Had the wound certificate been provided when we requested it with the correct details of the injury, we would have expedited the process. GH had provided the certificate with ‘simple injury', whereas it was a grievous injury that resulted in longer recuperation and loss of property.”

Mr. Suresh is planning to file a writ to make it mandatory for government hospitals to provide discharge summaries for those seeking treatment elsewhere.

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