Matter of Concern
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08 November 2008
Times News Network
Protect patients’ rights, activists tell state
If the government could speedily pass an ordinance to protect doctors against attacks, why are rules to protect patients rights pending since 2006?
That’s the question raised by health activists united under the aegis of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan who came together on Friday in strong protest against the government’s inaction in passing the new rules under the Bombay Nursing Home Registration Act which was amended in 2005.
“The recent legal protection given to attacks on doctors shows that the government can take action if they want. We have tried to meet senior health officials on several occasions and emphasise the importance of the new rules but in vain,” said Dr Smita Shahpurkar from voluntary organisation Lokpratishtan, Osmanabad.
The new rules pertain to standardisation of care in the private healthcare sector and covers issues of patients rights such as the right to emergency medical care, the right to information and the freedom to take second opinions. Activists point out that, for instance, persons with HIV/AIDS aren’t operated upon in private setups, a clear violation of rights that can be redressed if the rules are passed.
“If the government doesn’t act, we will launch state-wide protests,” said Dr Satish Gogulwar of Gadchiroli.The activists have planned a protest in Nagpur to coincide with the upcoming state assembly session.
Health activists said that they had met state health minister Vimal Mundada on February 1 after several failed attempts. “She promised us that action would be taken within within two months. It is November, but nothing has been done as yet,” said Dr Shahpurkar. “Maybe health is not a priority for officials or they are afraid of a certain lobby of doctors. But implementing patients’ rights doesn’t mean we are going against doctors,” said Dr Anant Phadke, co-convener of JSA, pointing out that the new rules had been drafted in collaboration with leading medical bodies.
Activists went a step further and suggested that civil organisations should be involved in the monitoring and implementation of the new rules, drawing a comparison to the community-based monitoring that has been introduced for government healthcare institutions as part of the National Rural Health Mission.
While Mundada wasn’t available for comment, senior health officials said the proposal with the new rules was delayed as it was being tossed from one department to another. State health director Dr P Doke, however, told TOI that the addition of rules was a legal matter, and they were working out the procedures.