Mumbai: Wary of COVID-19, hospitals tell patients' kin to sign declaration
Declaration says hospital won't be held liable if patient is infected by virus during treatment; BMC official says no such guidelines issued
In an attempt to safeguard themselves in the current scenario, several private hospitals are mandatorily asking relatives of patients to sign a declaration that exempts them from being held accountable, if a patient is infected by COVID-19 during treatment.
Family members of Saroj Alag, 72, who had been admitted at Sujay Hospital in Juhu for a pelvic bone surgery on Monday, alleged that they were forced to sign such a declaration, and weren't informed about it at the time of admission. Alag's daughter, Devika Syal, said that the hospital authorities said they wouldn't go ahead with the surgery unless the declaration was signed. "The hospital didn't mention this at the time of admission and only brought it up late evening on Sunday. We are willing to follow all the protocols that are in place but if a hospital has such regulations, they should be upfront about it so that the family can decide whether to go to another hospital," she said.
Devika Syal claimed that Sujay Hospital authorities said they wouldn't go ahead with the surgery on her mother unless the declaration was signed. Pic/Shadab Khan
Syal added that the demand seemed unreasonable since her mother had been tested thrice for COVID-19. "She tested negative in the RT-PCR, antigen tests (done before admission) as well as in the CT Scan. We even agreed not to visit her while she was in the hospital to avoid any chance of infection. Even then the hospital said that we had to sign the declaration," she said. Alag's relatives signed the declaration and her surgery took place early morning on Monday.
Many COVID and non-COVID private hospitals have been asking for a signed waiver from patients as a few months ago, hospital owners took a mutual decision to do so. Civic officials in the health department, however, said that there was no such regulation that allows private hospitals to ask a patients' relative to sign a waiver. Dr Mangala Gomare, executive health officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said, "Whether it is a COVID or a non-COVID hospital, infection can come from anywhere. But the hospital has to take all precautions like staff wearing PPE kits while treating patients. There are no guidelines that allow hospitals to take such an undertaking from patients."
Samajwadi Party leader Raees Shaikh felt that it was unethical on the hospital's part to ask for such a declaration. "This is completely illegal. This is another instance where the government is not able to control private hospitals. Once the patient has been admitted after COVID tests, patient care has to be the hospital's responsibility. How else will the public have the confidence of visiting a hospital?" he said. NCP corporator Saida Khan said that hospitals need to be transparent about their regulations and should not withhold treatment.
While Dr Divyesh Raveshia, director of Sujay Hospital admitted that patients are made to sign such a declaration, he denied that treatment was withheld without it. "The declaration is part of the standard protocol and is more of an explanation of the risks to the patients. We have no control over the spread of infection. The RT-PCR test is only 70 per cent accurate and the patient could be an asymptomatic carrier. Signing the declaration is not compulsory. We want them to sign and if the patient disagrees then we have a chat with them," said Dr Raveshia. He added that the decision to not proceed with the surgery without the signed waiver is a decision between the surgeon and the patient.
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