Gross negligence has landed Max Hospital in trouble. The hospital chain’s Shalimar Bagh entity, which had declared a live baby dead, has lost its licence with immediate effect.

While existing patients at the hospital can either continue treatment or transfer to a different facility, the hospital will not be allowed to take in new patients.

The Delhi government issued an order cancelling Max Hospital-Shalimar Bagh’s licence, following this case. The order states that the hospital was found to be regularly flouting rules related to the treatment under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category. According the order, the condition of the EWS OPD (outpatient department) “was pathetic, the services in the said OPD was discriminatory and the free OPD achievement was less than 7.1 per cent and 8.1 per cent for November 15 and November 17, respectively.”

An inspection in November found that the hospital had been violating the rules under which it was allowed to temporarily increase bed strength to admit patients with dengue, chikungunya and fever.

“It was found that patients, other than fever cases… were admitted on the extra beds,” the order said.

Inquiry into the latest case of medical negligence, wherein one of two newborn twins, who was wrongly declared stillborn, has found the hospital deficient on several parameters. Records of temperature and vital sign monitors had not been maintained in this case.

The staff nurses, who failed to catch signs of life in the baby and handed over the body to parents without written directions from paediatricians, were also found to be at fault.

“On perusal of the report of the committee constituted by Director General Health Services, a prima facie case of gross negligence is found on the part of the hospital authorities,” the order said, and cancelled the registration of the hospital under the Delhi Nursing Home Registration Act, 1953.

According to the rule book, a hospital’s registration can be cancelled a month from when a show-cause notice is issued. The hospital had been issued a show-cause notice on November 22.

A statement by Max Healthcare said, “We strongly believe that this ruling is harsh and that we have not been given an adequate opportunity to be heard. We believe that even if there is an individual error of judgment, holding the hospital responsible is unfair and will severely limit the ability for patients to access treatment. We will explore all options available to us.”

Some questions are being raised over the decision to cancel the licence of a hospital, when in fact the negligence in this case was by individual doctors and nurses.

“This is a case of medical negligence. The Medical Council of India can decide to revoke the licence of the doctor after inquiry. But how can the licence of the hospital be cancelled on the basis of one case? If negligence is seen in a large number of cases, I am sure the government can take steps to shut down the department,” said K Sujatha Rao, Former Health Secretary.

She felt the move may be legally unsustainable.