Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 29, 2007

Judge tells off health director over missing file

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:39 am

NST: KUANTAN: A state health department director was yesterday given a lecture by a judge on the importance of safeguarding the medical records of patients.
Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir, who heads the Perak Health Department, was a witness in a negligence suit brought by the parents of a dead child against a private doctor.
The hearing of the case was delayed for almost a decade mainly because the baby boy’s medical records at a government hospital could not be found.
The child had suffered medical complications at birth on Nov 5, 1992, causing the private doctor who delivered it at his clinic to immediately send it to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital here.
The child’s condition gradually deteriorated before it died of a respiratory ailment four years later. Dr Ahmad Razin, who was the director of the hospital when the case was filed in 1996, told the court that he could not produce the medical records because the hospital’s present administration could not find them.
Responding to this, Sessions Court judge Sarimah Hashim said it was regrettable that the medical records could be lost and the hearing was delayed for so long because of it.
“I have to agree with the lawyers of this case that you should seriously consider the importance of safekeeping patients’ medical records as an issue here,” she told Dr Ahmad Razin.
“It would be hard for the court to dispense justice to either party in this case without those records.”
Both parties in the case had first requested from Dr Ahmad Razin a copy of the medical record in 1998. He had declined the request after consulting the government’s legal adviser.
“It is not the normal practice of hospitals to provide copies of medical records to patients,” he told the court.
Dr Ahmad Razin had at that time replied in a letter to the lawyers that he would only produce the medical records if called to do so by the courts.
To this, M.S. Dhillon, who represents the medical practitioner, said he had sent another letter to Dr Ahmad Razin in March the next year requesting for the hospital authorities to at least ensure the safekeeping of the medical records and be ready to produce them in court when requested.
Both parties of the case were, however, later informed that the medical records could not be found.
They nonetheless decided to proceed with the case in court last year.
At the end of the cross-examination, Dhillon expressed his disappointment over what he described as the failure of the health authorities to assist the court in the case.
“As a senior medical official, you should notify the Health Ministry about this case so that the safekeeping of medical records could be improved,” he told Dr Ahmad Razin.
Harinder Singh, who represents the child’s parents, also expressed disappointment that the case had dragged on for so long due to the missing medical records.
He nonetheless told the court that his clients would pursue the case and instead rely on other witnesses.
The child’s parents had claimed that the private medical practitioner was negligent in causing it to suffer birth asphyxia which occurs when a baby does not receive enough oxygen before, during or just after birth.
They are suing for an unspecific amount in damages.
In his defence, the medical practitioner claimed that the child had suffered congenital pneumonia at birth.
The case will be heard again on May 9.

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