Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
Life Exclusive
Thrills and perils at the front desk

The hectic work at the front desk meant staff being alert all the time, but despite this there were some goof-ups that were resolved without much ado. The 34rd part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business

Although the front desk associates had to be on their feet almost all the time, many of us developed sour feet and back pains; this was relieved by taking turns to go to the "back office" and relax for a few minutes at a time.

Smoking was prohibited in most areas and smokers had difficult time. They did have some rooms especially designed for smokers in most hotels, but occasionally we found that someone or the other had smoked in the banned areas. We were vigilant and had to ensure special cleaning in case somebody had done this mischief, as we did not want the new guest to lodge complaints, fall sick and resort to claims!
We had a strict check-out time at noon; many regular guests, who would be catching their flights back in the evenings, would dutifully deliver their luggage early in the mornings, to enable us to keep the rooms ready while some may delay their departures as late as possible!  We had a luggage counter, also manned by the front desk associates, and we would issue an ID tag, so that it could be returned on demand.
This was one area where most of us did receive some kind of tips and we had the baggages delivered to the vehicles (either our own coach to airport, or to the customer's car), so as to make their stay comfortable. Occasionally, we got into trouble too...
I remember we had a large group booking for a workshop; most of the guests knew each other and had come to attend every year. The group stayed on for two nights and three days. Our hotel was full and everyone was on his/her toes taking care of the guests. However, it so happened that two guests checked out at the same time and were leaving the hotel. One was being taken to the airport, while the other was living in Washington DC. The third guest, who was about to check out received a call and was told that the flight was indefinitely delayed due to storm conditions at her destinations. In that confusion of extending her stay, and two were leaving, her baggage, it appeared, was wrongly loaded with the exiting guests, which we did not know until we received her call from her room that the baggage delivered was not hers!
We rushed an associate to the airport, and luckily were able to meet the guest with her baggage, which was right. This meant that our guest's baggage had gone with the DC guest.  Our manager on duty, went in his car to the addressee's residence, and was able to retrieve the 'missing' baggage and bring it back to the hotel. We would have been in a mess, had the baggage gone with the passenger who was catching a flight!
In the meantime, the front desk associates were told that a surprise test was being carried out on all the new recruits, and the winner would be groomed to become the next supervisor. I think all of us did well, but Bernadette beat us all by a couple of points, and made the supervisor, with immediate effect! The human resources director told us that she was expecting all of us to score even and make it difficult for her to choose the candidate! They expect and train for 100% knowledge of hospitality work and responsibility, and 'cannot' afford any failures!
In the following month, I was selected as the employee of the month, which meant, for the winner, a simple cash prize of some 450, as an 'incentive'. This was done every month, and we had winners from various departments on a regular basis. These campaigns helped to keep our morale high.
We had an average of 80% occupancy throughout the year; but taken separately, on weekends it would drop considerably. Also, when we had storms of all kinds, flight cancellations and other such technical snags, we would have an influx of stranded passengers from the airport, who would really be looking for rooms. Not only these should preferably be near the airport, but inexpensive too.
After a detailed discussion with our sales director, we prepared a suitable letter. As I was doing guest relations, I went on a market study of the airlines operating at the Ronald Reagan airport, which was less than five minutes by a car. I met the manager on duty of every airline, spoke to them and persuaded them to issue a special ID to such passengers, who had become victims of circumstances and because of the cancellation of the flights, they be given special rates in the hotel. They were to be classified as "Distressed Passengers", which, they really were, considering the difficult position they were placed in and had to stay, unexpectedly, overnight, for no fault of theirs.
Such passangers were also given the voucher for stay at our hotel, but also a breakfast coupon for a sandwich. Invariably, the airlines would give us a call and let us know how many vouchers they had issued so that we could take care of them, because there were days when we had only a few rooms to give, particularly during the weekdays. There was no problem if flight cancellations had taken place on the weekends!
Needless to say, our occupancy increased. In the next few weeks, many other hotels in the area also began this practice but more importantly, our industry was coming to the rescue of the distressed passengers.
Since early morning flights took off from 6am onwards, we ensured that our night auditors took the extra burden of driving the guests to the airport; coffee/tea and packed breakfasts were also made available, and we began to cater to the needs of the distressed passengers, who in the past were left to fend for themselves!

However, if the climatic conditions did not improve, the passengers had to make other arrangements, if we had no rooms to offer, though, we did our best to accommodate them all the time.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)


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4 doctors of Max Hospital held guilty of negligence; anxious father awaits action after CIC’s order

Following the death of his daughter due to medical negligence in Delhi’s posh Max Hospital, the aggrieved father invoked 50 RTI applications in various departments to seek justice. Last week’s order by CIC Shailesh Gandhi provides some hope

Death due to medical negligence is common in our country but what is equally common is that doctors responsible for it are often shielded.

Delhi based SP Manchanda, an aggrieved father whose 30-year old daughter Nikita died two days after delivering a baby boy on 3 May 2009, has filed more than 50 RTI (Right to Information) applications in the health department, with police authorities, the Delhi Medical Council and the Medical Council of India (MCI) to strengthen his case of medical negligence that killed his daughter, and hoping for speedy justice.

His RTI application to the MCI revealed that the Ethics Committee in a meeting on June 2010 had found sufficient evidence to prove that four doctors of Max Hospital were proved guilty of medical negligence and the "quantum of punishment" would be decided in the next meeting. However, almost two years have passed, but there has been no word on whether any punishment was accorded to the four doctors even after Mr Manchanda invoked the RTI again. Mr Manchanda was thus forced to file a second appeal to the Central Information Commission (CIC).

On 9 May 2012, Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi ordered the Public Information Officer of the MCI to provide information on the quantum of punishment awarded to the four doctors of Max Hospital, Prithampura, Delhi and to put it up on the website.  

Following are the sequence of events:

3 May 2009: Dr Nikita Manchanda gave birth to a bony baby boy through C-Section at the Max Hospital, Prithampura in Delhi.

She was perfectly fine until the evening of 4th May. She complained of severe abdominal pain from 7pm onwards, which was unbearable. She also vomited persistently. In desperation, she made a call from her mobile at 11pm to Dr Alka Gupta, her gynecologist who did not answer her call. Between these hours, she was given a series of pain-killers by the resident doctor after Dr Gupta prescribed this over the telephone and by the anesthetist who also telephonically recommended pain-killers. The doctors did not think it fit to examine her physically despite her pain which was aggravating.

After writhing in pain throughout the night, at 7.30am the next day, Dr Gupta realized that the patient had to be rushed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Since Max Hospital has only two small lifts for a 10-floor hospital, it took one hour to rush Nikita to the ICU, located on an upper floor. Despite it being a full-fledged hospital, there is no blood bank and no proper co-ordination with other blood banks. It took the family a good two hours to arrange for blood by which time her battle for life was almost over. She was declared dead at 12.3 pm on 5th May.

7 June 2010 -A RTI reply to Mr Manchanda revealed that the Ethics Committee held the four doctors of Max Hospital guilty and recommended punishment: While the Delhi Medical Council gave a clean chit to all the doctors involved in treating Nikita stating there was no medical negligence, the Ethics Committee gave the following verdict: "…there is medical negligence since in a patient who has undergone Cesarean Section nearly 39 hours ago and has started complaining of severe pain in the abdomen and repetitive vomiting, no investigations including abdominal ultrasound were done and precious time was lost. In the morning when the patient went into irreversible shock, the team was energised to initiate the work-up but by that time the patient suffered a cardiac arrest and in spite of resuscitative measures, she died nearly 12 hours of the start of symptoms.

"`It is opined that the treating team was negligent in not picking up the gravity of the situation, did not act in a scientific manner of looking at alternatives but continued to attempt symptomatic relief hence the contention of the appellant is upheld and order of Delhi Medical Council is set aside.

"Dr Alka Gupta and Dr Pooja Bhatia were the immediate treating doctors and hence are held guilty of negligence in patient care… Dr Vikas Mangla advised medications without examining the patient, hence is guilty of his conduct… Dr Rajeev Kapoor was negligent in providing the wrong information. The quantum of punishment will be decided in the next meeting." What's being kept a secret is the 'quantum' of punishment and the suspicion that the four doctors continue to practice.

Mr Manchanda's use of RTI: "When Delhi Medical Council gave a clean chit to the doctors of Max Hospital in June 2010, I filed an appeal with Medical Council of India in August 2010. After several hearings, I procured the copies of minutes of meetings of March 2011. The Ethics Committee confirmed that doctors are guilty and extent of punishment was to be decided in the next meeting. Since then, the Medical Council of India has been postponing the judgment. To know the truth behind delay in awarding punishment, I again used RTI and went to Central Information Commission in second appeal. CIC has finally directed MCI to provide information to me in addition to compensation for the hardship. CIC also directed MCI to display names of doctors found guilty since Jan 2011 and quantum of punishment awarded on its website."

CIC Shailesh Gandhi's order: As per Mr Manchanda's request in the appeal to the PIO of Medical Council of India to disclose all correspondence/emails of the Medical Council of India had between Max Hospital and its doctors, the Ethics Committee and its members, Board of Governors of MCI and any other organisation/individual after 8 March 2011, including file notings. He also asked the MCI to compensate the appellant Rs3,000 as per the provisions of Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act for the loss and detriment suffered by him in pursing the appeal and getting the information late…

Mr Gandhi noted in the order that: "The complete collapse of mechanisms to punish people who have been found guilty is extremely damaging for society and denies victims a sense of justice being done."

Mr Gandhi further noted, "Harassment of a common man by public authorities is socially abhorring and legally impermissible. It may harm him personally but the injury to society is far more grievous. Nothing is more damaging than the feeling of helplessness. An ordinary citizen instead of complaining and fighting succumbs to the pressure of undesirable functioning in offices instead of standing against it. Therefore the award of compensation for harassment by public authorities not only compensates the individual, satisfies him personally but helps in curing social evil," the CIC said.

Information sought by Mr Manchanda from the PIO and subsequently in the second appeal to CIC:
1 What punishment was ordered against each of the four doctors?
2 When was the punishment ordered?
3 If the punishment has not been yet ordered, the reason thereof
4 Please let me know the present status in this case
5 Please inform me all correspondence/emails that the MCI had between Max Hospital and its doctors, Ethics Committee and its members, Board of Governors of the MCI and any other organization/individual in this regard after 8 March 2011. Please also provide file notings.

Reply by Davinder Kumar, Public Information Officer and joint secretary;
The appellant has sought information about four doctors who have been found guilty of medical negligence/misconduct by the Ethics Committee of MCI in a meeting held on 8 March 2011. The appellant has been informed about this in RTI by MCI. In the present case he had sought information about the punishment in this matter. According to the Ethics Committee meeting held on 8 March 2011, the quantum of punishment was to be decided in the next meeting. Thus, over 12 or 13 meetings have been held and the matter of punishment is claimed to have been still under consideration.  Since the Ethics Committee is delaying giving the punishment, contrary to its own decision, information regarding the first four queries cannot be given.

However, the CIC stated that the PIO has given no explanation for denying information on query-5 which amounted to refusal of information.

(Vinita Deshmukh is the editor of Life 365 (www.life365.in). She is also the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of a Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])



Tira T

5 years ago

These high profile "doctors" are too powerful to be even tinkered with by the judiciary, for the simple reason that they take the liberties of playing with lives of people who submit themselves to their mercy and readily agree just to live longer to go under their knives. Money is the only measure of anybody's success or, to tell the truth, the only gate pass to success--be it in an election or in the exams or in education or in any sphere of life. In any govt. office, the staff and officers do not move a file UNLESS they receive their "dues". For becoming a doctor, these medical tradesmen invest huge sums and are entitled to reap rich dividends or returns on the same! If IAS, CSS, IPS, IRS and, for that matter, the entire bureaucracy and all govt. or municipal staff, everyone in DDA/DJB/BSES/RTO/Police Stations/Govt. hospital morgues/govt. hospitals/CGHS and the like from top to bottom demand bribes by way of right, then what is the crime of doctors in the context of their investment in their careers? This permissive society approves of such conduct, as is clear from the behaviour of our leaders!
These four are not the only to be branded. There are more than millions in this league!

Nagesh Kini

5 years ago

Vinita has done the right story
Medical negligence in deed very criminal in nature is treated extremely casually by all - the doctors, service providing 'star rated' hospitals, police stations, consumer fora and above all the dysfunctional Indian Medical Regulator whose President is behind the bars for serious corruption charges for according registrations to medical colleges and new post grad. courses.
What one fails to understand why it takes such a long time to decide on a quantum of punishment for n established confirmed death due to negligence? Once the guilt is established why delay in meting out the punishment.
How can the Consumer forum order only a measly sum?

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

It is good to learn that Shailesh Gandhi has again delivered a correct judgement. His observation "Harassment of a common man by public authorities is socially abhorring and legally impermissible. It may harm him personally but the injury to society is far more grievous. Nothing is more damaging than the feeling of helplessness. An ordinary citizen instead of complaining and fighting succumbs to the pressure of undesirable functioning in offices instead of standing against it. Therefore the award of compensation for harassment by public authorities not only compensates the individual, satisfies him personally but helps in curing social evil," applies to him as much as any other public authority. He recently heard a 2nd appeal by me against the CIC New Delhi regarding 2nd appeals gone missing. I had sought info about some documents that are maintained by the CIC- like dak receipt register entries etc and Shailesh Gandhi's order was a curt 'all available info had been provided! It had forced me to ask him whether a Mumabi IIT alumni could be a traitor or an idiot!


5 years ago

Thanks for this encouraging piece. While private, so-called "super-speciality"and "corporate"hospitals will not care at all for these interventions by statutory authorities (as they share their loot with the ruling elite), some action is urgently required in respect of the govt. hospitals too and, more specifically, to the inhuman approach and rule-bound cruelty of the entire CGHS machinery which is thoroughly corrupt.

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