SC issues notice to Centre on a plea seeking uniform healthcare
The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Centre, states and the Union Territories on a plea seeking fixing of rates for each type of medical treatment and service offered by private hospitals, which account for over 70 per cent of the country’s healthcare system, so that patients are not charged arbitrarily.
According to the PIL, there is no uniform or standard rate of treatment in private hospitals despite a 2010 law under which rules were framed in 2012 stipulating mandatory standards and rules to be followed before grant of renewal of licences to the private hospitals.
The petitioners wanted the court to direct the Centre and the states to fix the maximum permissible rates private hospitals and clinics can charge.
A bench of Justices N.V. Ramana and Surya Kant asked senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioners, to serve a copy of the PIL on the authorities concerned so that the court can examine the issue at length. The petition was filed jointly by the NGOs Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Patients’ Rights Campaign, and social activist K.M. Gopakumar.
The petitioners have relied on the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010, the Clinical Establishment (Central Government) Rules, 2012, and the Patients’ Rights Charter, which apply to the regulation of both public and private medical facilities, but are not being implemented.
The rules mandate fixation of rates for each type of procedure and service within the range of charges determined by the central government from time to time in consultation with the state governments; minimum standards of facilities and services; minimum requirement of personnel, provisions of maintenance of records and reporting by hospitals before being granted permission to start their services.
The conditions that every establishment shall fulfil are:
⚫ Every clinical establishment shall display the rates charged for each type of service provided and facilities available, for the benefit of the patients at a conspicuous place in the local as well as in English language;
⚫ The clinical establishments shall charge the rates for each type of procedures and services within the range of rates determined and issued by the central government from time to time, in consultation with the state governments;
⚫ The clinical establishments shall ensure compliance of the standard treatment guidelines as may be determined and issued by the central government or the state government as the case may be, from time to time.
⚫ The clinical establishments shall maintain and provide electronic media records or electronic health records of every patient as may be determined and issued by the central government or the state government as the case may be, from time to time;
⚫ Every clinical establishment shall maintain information and statistics in accordance with all other applicable laws for the time being in force and the rules made thereunder.
The petition has referred to the inadequacies that exist in the public healthcare system, such as lack of sufficient infrastructure and human resources, non-availability of medicines, inadequate public investment and forced dependency on the private sector.
It said that on account of lack of proper regulations and implementation of the statutory provisions, there was rampant exploitation of the patients by private hospitals by fixing unaffordable and arbitrary rates for different types of treatments and medical care.