Protect patients, ensure their rights, and regulate private hospitals in India NOW!

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Dear Health Ministers, 

As we celebrate the 73rd year of India’s independence, we urge you to think of all the people who are struggling for affordable, quality healthcare across the length and breadth of this country. Often left with no choice but to seek treatment in unregulated and unaccountable private hospitals, cases of exorbitant overcharging, malpractices and negligence suffered by hapless patients and their families make media news every day.  Distressed victims of medical negligence who seek justice face years of frustrating struggle in state medical councils and consumer courts. The situation is such that people are increasingly suspicious of doctors and hospitals. Mistrust, hostility and aggression in hospitals have become commonplace, causing hardship to both patients and health care professionals.   

Given this context, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan along with other networks and patients groups has been raising the need for protecting the rights of patients and ending exploitation and malpractices in private hospitals. We had launched an e petition on Change.org and organised a protest at Jantar Mantar on 26th February this year. We also held discussions with Health Ministry officials regarding adoption of the Patients rights charter and implementation of the Clinical Establishments Act. Our petition and protest had some impact in form of the Health Ministry asking all State governments to implement a shorter charter of patients rights, and also initiating the process of notifying minimum standards which had been pending since last five years!

However people and patients are still awaiting effective action on the ground, and hence the need to take forward the campaign to its next stage.Therefore, dear Health ministers, on this Independence Day, we implore you to acknowledge the serious concerns of ordinary people and patients across India, and to take immediate, comprehensive and effective steps to address the current lack of accountability and neglect of patients interests in the private health sector.  We demand the following: 

Demand from all State governments:

1. All state governments should immediately implement the 13-point Patient Rights   Charter recently circulated by the Union Health Ministry. This will help to protect patients from various malpractices, overcharging and exploitation which are rampant in private hospitals.
 

Demands from the Central government

2. The Union Health Ministry should endorse for national implementation the comprehensive, 17-Point NHRC Patient Rights Charter (briefly given below) and include all these rights in the Minimum Standards for Clinical establishments, which must be notified as soon as possible. This will give stronger legal protection to patients seeking healthcare in private hospitals.
 

3. The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs must immediately issue a statement confirming that Healthcare is NOT EXCLUDED from the new Consumer Protection Act, and Healthcare must be explicitly covered in the rules for this act. This will ensure that ordinary patients suffering from negligence can continue to approach consumer courts for justice.
 

Demands from Central government and all State governments: 

4. Central and State governments must accelerate the implementation of the central Clinical Establishments Act (CEA) in all 11 states that it covers, including regulation of hospital rates and standard treatment guidelines. This will ensure affordable, standard rates and quality, rational health care in all hospitals.

 
5. Those States which have not yet adopted the central CEA must within the next six months adopt appropriate acts to regulate private hospitals, without any dilution of patients’ entitlements while including regulation of rates, standard treatment guidelines and protection of the entire range of patients’ rights.


6. Along with these acts, Central and State governments must ensure complementary patient friendly Grievance Redressal Mechanisms which are accessible to the common person, and act swiftly, fairly and effectively to deliver justice to victims of malpractices in the private healthcare sector.
 

Honourable ministers, millions of Indians with health problems visit hospitals every day, trusting that their health and well-being would be the topmost priority of every hospital which treats them. Yet countless patients and their caregivers have bitter experiences as they become victims of a system that ruthlessly exploits their vulnerability for profit, and with a sense of complete impunity. This injustice must end now. 

On this Independence Day, let us pledge to free this country from malpractices and lack of accountability of private hospitals!

Sincerely, 

Members of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan 

Know & demand your rights - Patients’ rights charter proposed by NHRC

Right to information · Right to records and reports · Right to emergency medical care · Right to informed consent · Right to confidentiality, human dignity and privacy · Right to second opinion · Right to transparency in rates · Right to non-discrimination · Right to safety and quality care according to standards · Right to choose alternative treatment options · Right to choose source for obtaining medicines or tests · Right to proper referral and transfer · Right to protection for patients involved in clinical trials and health  research · Right to take body of deceased or discharge of patient, without being detained · Right to patient education · Right to be heard and seek redressal