New Bill to Empower Patients Against Hospitals
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2 March 2009
By Madhavi Rajadhyaksha
If a proposed legislation goes through, you may soon be able to raise your voice against a hospital for overbilling you, denying your medical records or referring you elsewhere without a reason.
Patients’ rights as well as the rights of healthcare providers might get legal recognition with the Union health ministry recently drawing up a draft legislation called the National Health Bill 2009.
The draft is the outcome of a long–standing demand by the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (people’s health movement) which has been advocating a national health act to regulate both the public and private healthcare systems. The draft bill has recently been put up on the ministry’s website to invite public comment.
“Public health is an important area and the draft was intended to bring in regulation. It is still under consultation and was recently circulated among individual state governments,” said joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare Amarjeet Sinha.
He explained that patient’s rights, such as the right to emergency care for instance, were till now largely based on the interpretation of the law in various cases, and the bill once passed would be all–encompassing.
A comprehensive legislation, the bill will make it mandatory for hospitals to have independent complaint forums headed by a 24x7 official to redress patient grievances.
This will offer recorse to patients, in addition to existing courts and quasi–judicial bodies such as the medical council.