Healthcare system under lens

West Bengal’s healthcare system has been sick for a long time. From racketeering in kidney to selling newborns to using women as producers of babies to sucking patients dry in private hospitals – the system was stinking and nobody seemed bothered. Now Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has suddenly brought the entire healthcare system under lens. Investigations into the thriving business of selling babies have exposed the high political connections of those running the racket and minting money. Their long arms reach up to the corridors of power in Delhi. Private hospitals have become centres for minting money, where patients are always at the mercy of the hospital authorities and have no means of knowing what they are being charged for.
Now that inquiries have been started against some of these hospitals, it may be hoped that they will rein in their insatiable greed for money earned in every possible way, not necessarily legal. The proposed regulatory Bill which is being introduced in the State Assembly tomorrow and amending the Clinical Establishment Act will bring relief to the patients and their relations provided the State Government never slackens its vigilance and takes regular action for every violation of the law. Private hospitals and nursing homes will go back to their old ways if, after some time, official vigilance shows signs of flagging. A mechanism should be put in place so that officials and technical personnel visit the hospital and nursing homes regularly and inspect their functioning.
It is heartening to learn that the Government is proposing to make it legally binding on the hospitals to keep their charges within the ‘package’ agreed upon with the patients at the time of admission and not overcharge them later on any excuse. Now the Government has to turn its eyes to the private medical practitioners as well. Fees may be fixed according to their qualifications and experience, issuing receipts to patients must be made compulsory and their prescriptions should be subjected to regular audit. This last will make it difficult for the pharmaceutical companies to build an unholy ‘nexus’ with the medical practitioners. Under the law, no doctor can run a chamber in a pharmaceutical shop. But the reality is that most medicine shops have an attached room where more than one doctor may be examining patients at different times of the day. This should be strongly discouraged. Rigorous enforcement of the law and constant vigilance will reduce malpractices now rampant in the healthcare system.

Friday, 3 March, 2017