The ugly squabble that emanated between Shaimaa Selim, sister of Eman Ahmed Abd El Aty, once considered as the heaviest woman of the world and Dr. Muffazal Lakdawala of Saifee Hospital in April’17 following the bariatric surgery of Eman has forced Maharashtra government to reframe its regulations for foreign medical patients.
At the initiative of Dr. Muffazal Lakdawala, Eman Ahmed was airlifted in a special cargo flight from Egypt in February’17 and underwent treatment in Mumbai’s Saifee Hospital. She responded well to the treatment but was shifted to Abu Dhabi on May’17 for further treatments owing to severe dissatisfaction expressed by her sister. Eman died last week in Abu Dhabi following some complications arising from her co-morbid condition.
Shaima’s allegations against the leading doctor took the hospital authority by surprise forcing the ministry to intervene into the matter. Maharashtra, the 3rd largest state and thriving business capital of India, is aiming to occupy the topmost position in the country’s medical tourism. The state takes pride in providing the most advanced medical treatment facilities at a comparatively low cost than other top Indian metro cities.
Mumbai and Pune are two promising medical tourism hubs experiencing high international tourist visits for treatment purpose since quite some time. Moreover, the presence of a number of wellness holidaying spots in these twin cities greatly enhances India’s medical value travel.
The state striving for the top position in medical tourism can no more allow such untoward medical events in future that may degrade its position in this niche tourism sector. The Health Minister of the state voiced certain preventive measures few months back immediately after the spat between Eman’s family and Saifee hospital.
He expressed the need of having a standard operating procedure (SOP) and has directed his officials to create a set of guidelines to be circulated among all hospitals. Stringent rules in IVF and surrogacy are already in effect for overseas medical tourists but this would now be applied to all foreign tourists seeking other treatments as well.
The new regulations are to be set with due consultations from the Director of Health Services (DHS), Director of Medical Education and Research (DMER) and experts from the medical fraternity. The sole objective is to maintain the best level of transparency between the patient party and hospital leaving zero room for ambiguity.
The new regulation is expected to include few declarations from the patient as follows:
- Declaration of the patient’s complete medical history.
- Nature of the ailment the patient is suffering from
- The previous treatments the patient has undergone related to the current ailment.
- Detail information of the medications taken.
- Reasons for opting Maharashtra for treatment among other locations.
- Submission of a written consent by the patient party to the doctors for surgery or treatment. There would be a clear declaration that doctors should not be held responsible if the results are not up to the expectations of the patient or the nearest kin neither they should be held responsible for any compensation claim if the results fail to meet the expectations of the patient.
The proposals are still under drafting and would take two more months to get finalized. Foreign medical patients do have to follow certain rules while seeking treatments in the state hospitals. They are as follows:
- They need to provide passport and visa details to the hospital authorities.
- Patients with medical visa get instant admission but the information of those travelling with other visa are shared with the Foreign Registration Office (FRO) for approval prior to admission.
- Those unable to speak or understand English or regional language are compulsorily taken care of by interpreters in every step starting from consultations, getting the consent and during the entire procedure of surgery and treatment.
- Videos of high risk surgeries and organ transplants are recorded.
- Lastly, the hospitals collect patient feedback about their experience with the treatment, costs and other related services.
Some tweaks are expected in the regulation as reported by a special officer of the state health ministry. Patient experience matters a lot in medical tourism. The new regulations will no doubt reduce the chances of dispute in treatments but a lot would depend on efficient handling of the situation.
Handling overseas patients is not an easy task as their expectations vary a lot. Patients are often not willing to accept any unfortunate outcome even if there is no negligence from the doctors or hospital.
Most of these patients have to bear a lot of stress while availing medical assistance in an alien land and their expectations sometimes may surpass the realistic level. Therefore, proper efforts should be there to communicate the patient about the treatment procedure, its associated risks and the expected outcome.