In an effort to improve healthcare services in the country, city-based public health physician, Dr Abhay Shukla, and his team have begun work on compiling patients’ experiences of malpractice in private hospitals.
The project has emerged from Dr Shukla’s social media campaign which he launched with a tweet on Independence Day which said: “This Independence Day, let’s fight a battle of freedom against malpractices and overcharging in private hospitals in India! Join the Twitter storm and tweet in support of #PatientsBeforeProfits”.
The national co-convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a movement for better public healthcare in the country, Dr Shukla’s tweets demanded empowerment of patient rights and regulation of private hospitals by the government.
The campaign elicited a strong public response on social media reflecting anger and frustration against private hospitals for a variety of violations.
Co-author of Dissenting Diagnosis, a book where 78 doctors spoke about the exploitative system of corporate healthcare, Dr Shukla said, “It will be the first-of-its-kind document giving voice to patients’ grievances against privatised, corporate healthcare.”
According to him, the campaign began with a well-attended protest in New Delhi in February which led to two outcomes: First, the Union health ministry acted upon the proposed Charter of Patients’ Rights sent by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and endorsed about 7 of the 17 recommended rights. A charter of 13 rights with a list of dos and don’ts to be adopted by clinical establishments, including private hospitals, was then drawn up and circulated to all state governments for implementation.
The second outcome of the Delhi meet was that the minimum standards (of facilities and services provided by clinical establishments) under the Central Clinical Establishment Act, 2017 (to provide registration and regulation of clinical establishments) was set in motion, he said.
“People now expect effective action on the ground and hence, this next stage of the campaign,” he said.
“If the patients know these rights and if the private hospitals display it, people will start challenging the irregularities and violations and raise important questions, which is a step in the right direction,” he noted.
Charter of Patients’ Rights drawn up by NHRC
The charter states patients’ rights like right to emergency medical care, right to safety and quality care (according to standards set by National Accreditation Board of Hospitals), right to patient education (about facts of his/her condition), right to be heard and seek redressal, right to protection from health research, right to take timely discharge of patients, right to care at prescribed rates (itemised detailed hospital bill) and right to choose source of medicine, amongst others.
Documenting stories of violations by private hospitals
Dr Abhay Shukla and his team members are documenting stories, some of which are absolutely horrifying, he says, of violations of patients’ rights by hospitals.
“Once we reach the desired number of stories, we will hold a Patients Satyagraha for patients’ rights on October 2. Then, on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day, we plan to have a public hearing on private hospitals where patients and parliamentarians will be invited to take action against all these cases pouring in now,” he said. – Hindustan Times