CHENNAI: A young woman admitted with high fever at a private hospital in the city has alleged that she was molested by a male duty doctor under the guise of physical examination the night she was kept in the High Dependency Unit (HDU).
It has been over a month since the woman filed a complaint with the management of Vijaya Hospital, but the complainant said that there appeared to be no signs that the hospital was taking action in the matter or investigating the allegations against its doctor. It had not communicated to her what process it was following, she said.
As the hospital had maintained silence, the woman’s family told Express that they were planning to move the court. They have also filed a complaint with the Medical Council of India (MCI). Express contacted hospital officials multiple times, by phone and in person, but they refused to comment. However, they acknowledged that they had received the woman’s complaint.
The 23-year old, who hails from the city but works in New Delhi, said she had come home to Chennai on August 18 after developing a fever and was taken to the hospital for treatment. Her family said two doctors examined her and then she was admitted in the HDU to be kept under observation that night. She alleged that the night duty doctor needlessly conducted another physical examination during which he touched her inappropriately.
“I was not allowed to have my phone with me nor were any family members allowed inside the ward. I was feeling very disoriented and I running a high fever. I couldn’t stop what was happening to me,” she said.
“I could feel his hands groping me under the thin hospital gown I was wearing. He touched my genitals and abdomen region. When I had only a fever what was the necessity to touch my lower body?” she asked. She said there was no female nurse or staff present with the doctor during the ‘examination’, a violation of MCI guidelines.
The next morning after she told her parents about the incident, they approached the HR personnel at the hospital to raise a complaint against the doctor. “The HR informed us that the doctor was absconding and couldn’t be reached. They promised us that they would investigate the matter. Four days later, we approached the hospital again. But the medical officer informed us that such issues would take time to be investigated,” a family member said.
The woman’s family sent a written complaint and a legal notice to the hospital on August 27, but hadn’t received any response, said a family member. “It clearly looks like they are protecting him even after such an incident has happened,” said a family member. The family said they had not filed a police complaint as the process might further traumatise the woman.
According to the MCI’s code of ethics, under the Indian Medical Council (Professional conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, abuse of professional position by committing improper conduct with a patient will render a physician liable for disciplinary action under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 or the concerned State Medical Council Act.
When Express contacted the duty doctor, three days after sending him a questionnaire, he claimed he could not comment without the hospital’s permission.
Representatives of the CMO’s office and HR wing at the hospital confirmed they had received a legal notice from the patient but refused to respond to any specific questions even a week after Express sent them a detailed questionnaire.
“We have forwarded the legal notice to our legal advisor. Our advisor will respond to their allegations in court. We do not wish to comment when they have taken the legal route,” said Sebastine, head of the hospital’s HR wing.