The Supreme Court on July 27 asked the Centre to respond to a petition that said fundamental right to health had taken a back seat as patients were forced to choose between expensive private care and an “inadequate” public health sector, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana issued notice on a petition filed jointly by Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Patients’ Rights Campaign and Gopakumar K.M. for the proper implementation of the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act of 2010, the Clinical Establishment (Central Government) Rules of 2012 and the Patients’ Rights Charter.
“The regulation of standards in clinical establishments adopted as a national policy goal by Government of India nearly two decades ago is yet to be effectively implemented across the country. This is, therefore, a denial of the right to a dignified life. Minimum healthcare is assured under Articles 21, 41 and 47 of the Constitution and the international covenants,” the petition, represented by senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, said.
The petition said the Act and the Rules prescribed uniform conditions for registration at clinical establishments for treatment. This would include determined rates for medical care, procedures and services, standard treatment protocol as provided in Sections 11 and 12 of the Clinical Establishments Act 2010 read with Rule 9 of the Clinical Establishment Rules, 2012.
The hearing has come amid reports of skyrocketing private hospital charges for COVID-19 treatment. The petition said a grievance redressal mechanism should be made available to patients at district, State and national levels.
“This mechanism would look into grievances of the patients at different levels. This would include denial of patients’ rights by the hospitals/ clinics and failure to provide minimum care and facilities as provided under the Clinical Establishments Act and Rules,” the petition said.
The plea said that despite these laws, the “situation today is that more than 70% patient care is provided by the private sector and less than 30% patients use the public sector”.
The National Health Policies of 1983, 2002 and 2017 had promoted private health sector facilities, shifting focus away from the public health sector.
The plea in the Supreme Court referred to the inadequacies that existed in the public health care system, such as the lack of sufficient infrastructure, human resources, non-availability of medicines, inadequate public investment and “forced dependency on the private sector”.