Jan Arogya Abhiyan welcomes order for display of Patients’ Rights Charter in all hospitals
JAA appeals to people to demand rights in hospitals, we will monitor implementation
Maharashtra Health department has issued an order on 15 November 2021 to all District
and Corporation health officials, asking them to ensure display of the NHRC Patients’ rights
charter in all public and private hospitals across the state. Jan Arogya Abhiyan has recently
received this order, along with the official Marathi version of the Patients’ rights charter.
JAA sincerely welcomes this order, which signals that the government has clearly recognised
malpractices and exploitation of patients in private hospitals. This charter marks a major
step forward for implementation of patients’ rights in the state, following over a decade of
social campaigns and advocacy.
The rights in this charter which are now formally endorsed by Health department, and need
to be ensured by all private and public hospitals, include the following:
Right to information about nature of illness, expected costs of treatment, possible
complications and expected costs;
Right to information on rates charged for each type of service, which should be
prominently displayed in the hospital;
Right an itemised bill, and to access all case papers, patient records and investigation
Right to seek second opinion from another clinician of the patient’s choice, and to
choose alternative treatment options if available;
Release of dead body of the patient cannot be denied by the hospital for any reason;
Right to no discrimination in treatment based on the patient’s condition or illness
(such as HIV status), religion, gender, age, ethnicity or social origins;
Right to confidentiality, human dignity and privacy during treatment.
Jan Arogya Abhiyan notes that various malpractices which have been experienced by
patients in private hospitals since many years, form the background to official adoption of
these patients rights. However, the widespread and excessive overcharging, irrational
treatments and violation of basic rights of patients during the COVID epidemic have finally
prompted the government to step in and formally ensure these patients’ rights.
It should be noted that the first attempt to implement patients’ rights in Maharashtra was
through inclusion of these rights in the draft rules for the Bombay Nursing Homes
Registration Act (BNHRA) in 2006, based on proposals from the health movement.
Subsequently patients’ rights were included in draft versions of Maharashtra Clinical
Establishments Act in 2014, and then another draft law in 2018. However, none of these
legal provisions for protecting patients have seen the light of day, mainly due to resistance
from the private medical lobby. In June 2019 the Union Health Ministry circulated a Charter
of patients’ rights and responsibilities for implementation by all states, and then NHRC
issued COVID related advisories in Sept. 2020 and May 2021, which reiterated the urgent
need for governments to ensure, for hospitals to observe the Patients’ rights charter. These
efforts over last 15 years have finally resulted in adoption of Patients’ rights by Maharashtra
government in Nov. 2021.
Dr Anant Phadke, co-convenor of Jan Arogya Abhiyan appealed to people across the state to
understand all the provisions of this important charter, and to demand these rights
whenever any patient is admitted in a hospital. Kajal Jain, representative of JAA State
committee stated that now JAA will widely publicise this charter across the state, and will
actively monitor its display and implementation. Teams of activists will visit private
hospitals, and in case it is found that the charter has not been displayed by certain hospitals,
then this will be brought to attention of Health authorities for prompt action.
Dr Satish Gogulwar, co-convenor of Jan Arogya Abhiyan opined that while this charter of
Patients’ rights will protect patients, it should not be viewed as being against doctors. In fact
all rational and ethical doctors would welcome these provisions, and the section on patients
responsibilities can help to ensure that doctors and health workers are able to perform their
work more effectively.
Dr Abhay Shukla, Member of the NHRC core group on Health, stated that this is a delayed
but important step to protect ordinary patients, whose human rights have been widely
violated during the COVID epidemic. He stated that Maharashtra is the first state in India to
have mandated implementation of the Union Health Ministry Patients’ rights charter, which
should be appreciated.
Patient – activist Shreya Nimonkar, who recently won compensation from a private hospital
regarding medical negligence after a decade-long legal battle, stated that it is very difficult for
any ordinary patient to claim their rights from powerful private hospitals. She opined that her
own case shows how the present grievance redressal system is completely biased in favour of
hospitals, and hence along with implementation of the Patients’ rights charter, there is also
need for a patient-friendly redressal system.
While working for implementation of this charter across the state, Jan Arogya Abhiyan also
demands an effective, patient friendly grievance redressal mechanism to support patients
whose rights may continue to be violated, and to take action against erring private
hospitals. JAA also reiterates its demand for enactment of Maharashtra Clinical
Establishments act, whose draft is pending with the state government since 2014. Given the
experience of the COVID epidemic and massive overcharging and exploitation of patients by
many private hospitals, now the government must enact such a law including rate
regulation, standard treatment guidelines, and expanded range of patients’ rights, to be
ensured through adequate regulatory humanpower. This would be the best way of paying
homage to innumerable patients who suffered in private hospitals during COVID, and would
prevent further injustice to patients in the future.