With several cases of medical negligence and violation of patients’ rights now becoming public knowledge, a website intends to play the role of a watchdog for private health practitioners by compiling the bad experiences of patients on a single platform. 

A number of health activists across states have come together to contribute for a portal called privatehospitalswatch.in to collect information from patients about the violations they experienced in the private health sector. 

Speaking about privatehospitalswatch.in, Dr Abhijit More, co-convenor, Jan Arogya Abhiyan (JAA), told The Sunday Guardian, “Through this platform, we intend to compile stories of violations by private hospitals and private practitioners. We want to bring the discourse over patients’ rights to the mainstream. Subsequently, we intend to do advocacy for extreme cases. We are demanding a separate redressal system as part of the regulatory framework.”

In India, doctors writing a lengthy prescription, prescribing numerous pathological tests, hospitalising patients for minor sicknesses, prescribing unnecessary surgery, over-charging patients for consultation and medicines etc, are common complaints faced by patients and their families on a daily basis.

A study in Mumbai on prescriptions by doctors for tuberculosis found that despite the availability of Standard Drug Treatment Regimes prepared by the WHO and by the National Tuberculosis Control Programme, out of 106 doctors, only six gave the correct prescription. When the same study was repeated after 20 years, they found that there has been virtually no improvement in this scenario. 

As per the Economic Survey 2017-18 tabled in Parliament last week, there are wide differences in the average prices of medical diagnostic tests across cities which need to be addressed by standardising rates in order to reduce Out of Pocket Expenses (OPE) on health services. 

The data reveals that a lipid profile test can cost a minimum of Rs 90 and a maximum of Rs 7,110. Echo test costs range between Rs 500-Rs 5,200 and the costs of liver function tests range between Rs 100 and Rs 2,500. 

Experts say that the reason for the abysmal state of ethics is the lack of law enforcement. The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010, was enacted by the Central government to ensure the regulation of private medical establishments in the country, but only 10-11 states in the country have adopted the Act, but implementation still remains a distant dream. 

Advocate Pooja Joshi Deshpande, who has been handling some cases of medical negligence, said, “In case of a bad encounter with the hospital or doctor, patients are not aware enough to know what to do. There are only two options even if you want to register a complaint. It is either state Medical Councils or consumer courts where a person can go to complain and both these places are over-burdened and inefficient in delivering any justice.”

The result of such circumstances is that there is not even any collated data of the number of cases ever registered, dismissed and concluded. 

Dr Abhay Shukla, convener, Jan Swasthaya Abhiyan, said, “In 2015, in an RTI response, the state government had revealed that in the last 10 years, around 750 complaints were registered with authorities out of which 80% were pending.” 

Moreover, hospitals do not come under the jurisdiction of the state Medical Councils, which means that complaints can only be registered against doctors and not hospitals.

However, there are several amendments that health experts say are required to bring under the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010. 

All the hospitals should be registered with the government and all the information regarding their employees, procedures, registration etc, should be made public. 

Currently, there are no enforceable Standard Treatment Guidelines in the Indian private health sector. It should be introduced so that unnecessary procedures, medications, investigations and surgeries can be avoided or minimised. This will also ensure some minimum standard of treatment that every patient can receive. 

Dr More said, “Hospitals should provide a booklet of their rate card to the patients. There should be a charter of patients’ rights and responsibilities which should be displayed in hospitals and observed. The charter lists the right to information, right to medical records, right to privacy/ confidentiality, right to second opinion, right to human dignity, right to non-discrimination, right to informed consent, right to emergency first aid for accident victims.”

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