As we are aware, today denial of Patients’ rights, gross overcharging, irrational, unnecessary investigations and procedures by private hospitals are on the rise. Significant social unrest is emerging due to these practices of the private medical sector, which is today largely unregulated. Besides social and health activists, there is a small section of rational practising doctors who are also quite dissatisfied due to gross commercialization of the profession, as well as the inroads being made by a growing corporate healthcare sector. In this context, we need to document various cases of denial of patients’ rights, along with recording some testimonies of rational doctors who are in favour of social regulation, and we should use such evidence towards strongly demanding social regulation and accountability of the private medical sector.
With the advent of the Clinical Establishments Act (CEA) enacted by the central government in 2010, regulation of the private medical sector is now coming onto the agenda. Some states like Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh have adopted the central act in its existing form, while states like Chhattisgarh and Odisha have their own existing state acts, and states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu are in the process of coming out with their own separate acts. Delhi has its own redundant ‘Delhi Nursing Home Registration Act’.
Given the major gaps in various existing regulatory frameworks, it is important that further steps be taken urgently for effective regulation, which would address the rights and needs of ordinary patients, as well as concerns of rational doctors. Otherwise the regulatory process would be completely dominated by bureaucrats and corporate hospitals, leading to continued irrationality and exploitation, compounded by corruption by officials.
Given this background, for health activists/ civil society organisations working in health and interested activists from all over India it has become an urgent need to engage with the issues related to patients’ rights and regulation of private medical sector in their respective areas and states.