New law must regulate private hospitals: NHRC
NHRC acting chairperson Justice Cyriac Joseph said either laws should be amended or a new law should be introduced to regulate the working of private hospitals and their doctors. His comment followed the NHRC’s refusal the previous day to hear cases against private hospitals as it can only hear cases against public servants.
Justice Joseph and other NHRC officials were in the city for the first of six public hearings of grievances about healthcare providers. Although 106 cases were lined up for hearing, the NHRC team did not hear 23 cases on technical grounds, as they pertained to private hospitals and were complaints that were less than a year old.
“My heart was bleeding for these patients,” said Justice Joseph, adding that he could see how “agitated, disturbed or depressed” they were on Wednesday night’s hearing, after being turned down. He indicated that the commission would write to the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) to look at these cases.
“A general observation after hearing complaints yesterday (on Wednesday) is that it cannot be disputed that the condition of healthcare in different states (Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan) isn’t satisfactory, particularly in rural areas,” he added.
Not only is there an acute shortage of doctors in primary healthcare centres but regulatory bodies are not effective. “Although government hospitals have a grievances cell, over 75% complaints are not addressed,” he said.
He noted that medical councils were not empowered to take action against hospitals. “If hospitals have to be regulated, we have to have a new law to regulate their working. If this is not possible, then the medical councils Act should be amended,” said Justice Joseph.
He said only 88 cases were heard for want of time at the two-day hearing. Of these, 38 cases were from Maharashtra, 30 from Gujarat and 20 from Rajasthan. “Thirty-five cases were disposed of and Rs 4.25 lakh was awarded as compensation,” he added.
“People demanded proper implementation of the Clinical Establishments Act. Either states can adopt the central act or come up with their own law. Maharashtra is in the process and it has been placed before the assembly,” he said.
“Healthcare is a constitutionally guaranteed right. The state is bound to protect people’s right. Doctors are expected to uphold the human rights of patients. Even the king isn’t above law, so even if the doctor is king, they cannot escape the law,” he said.
State principal secretary (public health) Sujata Saunik said the government worked out a formula to monitor charity work by trust-run hospitals. “We will implement it as soon as it is approved,” she said.
‘No funds crunch for HIV care in state’
Taking suo moto cognisance of media reports of erratic funding for the programme, SHRC chairman Justice S R Bannurmat said he had recently told the state government to give a reply.
State principal secretary (public health) Sujata Saunik said the state had disbursed money to AIDS control organisations. “As of now, there is no crunch in resources. Drugs are also available,” she said. An NGO, SANGRAM, working in the field of HIV, told the NHRC on Thursday that the stockouts were getting more frequent. tnn