Recently, the resident medical officer of GH was hauled to court to state the details of treatment given to a patient after an accident

Accident victims who undergo treatment at government hospitals often have to wait for months to receive compensation, as lawyers representing them need the hospital’s support to establish facts.

Recently, the resident medical officer (RMO) of Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH) was hauled to court to state the details of medical treatment provided to a patient after an accident. This is unusual, as the accident claims tribunal only requires the presence of a person qualified to give such details, and not a senior hospital official.

The warrant came on September 2, when a lawyer seeking compensation for his client, called for the RMO to appear before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal. His client had met with an accident in 2004 and had been treated at GH.

At hospitals, medical records are maintained by a separate department. A set of officials are trained for this purpose and are deputed by the hospital to appear before the magistrate when called. These record officials provide the details entered in the patient’s case sheets.

“While in cases pertaining to crime the doctor who treated the patient or wrote out the details (usually in the GHs it is the RMO) must depose in court, in other cases it is enough if the medical records department officer appears before the magistrate,” said V.S. Suresh, the lawyer who issued the warrant.

“The GH gets patients from as far as Tiruvallur and Madurantakam and the courts demand the presence of the medical records person in medico-legal cases. Usually, a junior assistant is deployed for court rounds. We have noticed that often the assistant skips three or four sessions and then makes an appearance only when it becomes inevitable. We are thus forced to issue a warrant to the RMO,” Mr. Suresh added.

Hospital’s response

A senior official at the hospital said there were issues with how the original records were handled in court. “If the case can be turned around in favour of the patient then the lawyer could remove a page from the case sheet making it look as if the hospital records are incomplete. Our records department will never do that as it is of no interest to them,” the official said, recalling an earlier such incident.

GH Dean V. Kanagasabai said Madras Medical College, runs a course in medical records science and that the hospital had an officer and 16 technicians on its roll at the department. He said he was not aware if technicians had deliberately ignored the court summons as claimed by Mr. Suresh.

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