Referring the patient? Confirm doctor’s availability first

  • Posted on: August 26, 2021

Availability of the specialist must be confirmed before referring the patient, especially in cases where the services could be urgently needed to manage complications. Not doing so is negligence.

The patient sustained fracture in his right leg. The orthopaedic surgeon performed surgery and referred him to a vascular surgeon who was located in another city. However, when the patient reached there, the doctor was not available at his clinic. The patient visited another doctor who provided treatment, but to no avail.

The patient visited another doctor and subsequently a hospital where his leg below thigh was amputated!

Losing a limb is a shocking and heart-wrenching experience. The patient sued orthopaedic surgeon and blamed him for the unfortunate outcome.

The surgeon stated in defence that patient was diabetic, and proper treatment was provided to control it before performing the surgery. It was further stated that acute embolism developed and the patient was referred to a vascular surgeon without wasting any time.

The Commission referred to medical literature and observed that it was a case of res ipsa loquitor, and stated the following: “Medical literature clear indicates that vascular complication is possible at the time of orthopaedic surgery hence treating doctors should be in constant contact with vascular surgeon so that his presence may be available immediately if any complication arises at the time of surgery”.

“In the present case, though there was no movement in patient’s right leg’s fingers, treating doctor has discharged and referred him to vascular surgeon at Rajkot without confirming whether he was available or not. This episode shows medical negligence and deficiency in service on part of the treating doctor”.

The orthopaedic surgeon was held negligent and ordered to pay compensation.

Source: Order pronounced by Gujarat Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, on 22nd March, 2021.