With lawsuit against doctors in hospitals around the world becoming concern for health professionals, its a big money business for lawyers and insurance companies. In PNG, lawsuit against doctors, hospitals and the state has not caught on yet. We know fully well of the lawsuits against the Police Department and the state for damages by police personal during either authorised or un-authorised raids. The out-of-court settlements has soared into the millions! Its now also recognised that people who claim damages against the state seem to collude with ‘insiders’ to get these hefty payouts. A form of “systemic corruption”.
Many letters have been written to the editors section in PNG newspapers citing instances of ‘professional negligence’ by health workers in PNG hospitals. Although it does not seem to be a major concern in provincial hospitals, the complaints have been mainly against the two major referral hospitals in PNG, Port Moresby General Hospital and Angau Memorial General Hospital in Lae. This week a news article appeared in The National about a lawsuit against ANGAU hospital. I have reproduce the story below:
“Angau Memorial General Hospital has been sued for professional negligence of duties resulting in the death of a student from the Balob Teachers College in Lae. Law firm Steeles Lawyers successfully applied and obtained a default judgement from the National Court in Lae last Thursday against the former chief executive officer Margareth Samei, the hospital board of management, and the State for breach of duty of care and negligence of the hospital’s medical staff. Lawyer Kenneth Aisi made the application for default judgement which was entered for special damages amounting to thousands of kina. The damage is to be assessed by the court at a later date. The deceased’s father Ole Yoko, is the plaintiff who filed proceedings and claimed damages and losses against the hospital after the death of his son on Aug 31, 2005. Mr Yoko’s son was a student at Balob Teachers College when he was admitted to the hospital. The father claimed that the medical staff could have treated his illness at that time. A copy of the submissions by Mr Aisi stated that the deceased died as a result of the breach of duty of care by the Angau staff.”
I am not aware of a successful lawsuit against a hospital in PNG. If the above case goes through and the hospital or state pays a out-of-court settlement, this might be the first case in PNG. I am aware of a few cases against doctors and hospitals, though I am not sure the person taking the hospital to court got any money or not for damages.
I think its only a matter of time before we see more and more cases like the story above. As the public become more knowledgeable about the duty of care that they expect from health workers, the number of lawsuits might increase in the next 10-15 years.
The above scenario is not a good for the health department and health service delivery if they have to pay out large sums of money in damages. But, indirectly I think it will improve the quality of service that is provided. Such lawsuits might perhaps, instill a more disciplined health workforce to show emphty to patients and a little bit more responsibilty. I am not saying the standard of care is sub-standard right now but it’s general knowledge in PNG that patients in public hospitals are not approached in the ame way it is done in private hospitals.
The risk of being sued might also make doctors and health workers to be up to date with medical information, research data and new forms of treatments. It might also force the government to finally open its eyes and actually improve health care delivery in PNG.