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Private health establishments in Bengal to have it very tough if state govt's new health Bill is passed

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 3 March 2017, 16:21 IST
(Photo by Subhankar Chakraborty/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The new West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017 drawn up by the Mamata Banerjee government will put in place stringent measures to deal with hospitals (both private and state-run) and proposes hefty fines for any lapses in functioning.

This Bill, which was presented to the Bengal Assembly on Friday, has been framed in the wake of the allegations slammed against a well-known private hospital in Kolkata after they refused to discharge a patient for admission to another hospital.

The new Bill, if passed, will mean that the hospital in question has to pay Rs 10 lakh in compensation to the family of the deceased, to be paid within six months, if it is proved that the death was caused by medical negligence. 

The patient was admitted at Apollo Hospitals and his family wanted to shift him to state-run SSKM. Apollo refused to discharge him until medical bills amounting to Rs 7.93 lakh were settled.

The incident created a huge uproar in the state. The CEO of the private hospital also resigned on Thursday.

The new Bill mentions that in case of a 'grevious injury' caused by 'medical negligence by a private hospital or nursing home will result in a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the victim. In case of a minor injury the hospital authorities will have to pay compensation of Rs 3 lakh. The compensation will also have to be paid within six months.

While the earlier Clinical Establishment Act, 2010 included punishment for both private and state-run hospitals, nursing homes and health care centres in the case of injury caused due to medical negligence, the new Act is not applicable to the state-run hospitals and healthcare centres.

The earlier Clinical Establishment Act also did not mention anything about the compensation to be paid by the hospital authorities in cases of medical negligence.

Other points of note

– In the new Bill, the West Bengal Regulatory Commission, which will be headed by a retired judge, has been formed which has the power to cancel the license of a private hospital or nursing home. 

– The Commission even has the power to file criminal cases against an errant private hospital or nursing home, if complaints of medical negligence are filed by the patient’s relatives.

- In case of the state government's order is violated, the Commission can impose a penalty on erring  private hospitals and nursing homes with a jail term of three years.

- The Commssion can also undertake planned or surprise inspections to examine and ascertain strict compliance with provisions of this Act.

- The Bill also mentions that only trained nurses, doctors and paramedical staff should be employed.

- More so, a grievance redressal cell and help desks should be set up for the welfare of the patient's relatives.

 – The Bill also mentions that private hospitals or nursing homes cannot file civil cases against the patient’s relatives with the police. If a particular hospital or nursing homes wants to complain against a patient’s relative then they have to file a complaint to the Commission first. The Commission will then investigate the matter.

 – The Bill also curbs the private hospital or nursing home’s power to keep the dead bodies of the patients until all the dues are cleared. The Bill mentions that emergency patients should be treated without demanding fees during admission, and the dead bodies should not be kept in the hospital even if dues are not cleared.

– Private hospitals and nursing homes cannot charge additional fees above what they are already offering as a package for a particular operation, the new Bill states. This clause was put in to curb the demand of excess fees by these institutions.

– The Bill also outlines the necessary facilities a hospital or a nursing home must have to set up base in the state.

– The Bill mentions that for a 100-bed private hospital or a nursing home, authorities had to set up a fair-price medicine shop and a diagnostic centre within their campus.

– The private hospitals and nursing homes should also keep 20% of their beds free in the Out Patient Department(OPD) department and 10% beds free in indoor admissions for poor patients who possess the BPL card.

– The Bill also mentions that in case the violation of a state government's order, the Commission can impose a penalty on the erring institutions with a jail term of upto three years.

According to Opposition members, the Bill should also include state-run hospitals and healthcare centres too as complaints of medical negligence and illegal activities have also surfaced against them.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “We welcome the new Bill, but the state government should have monitored the state-run hospitals too in such a manner that patients get relief there as well. This Bill is old wine in a new bottle."

In retort, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "It's a historic Bill to give relief to patient's relatives. If allegations of malpractice is noticed in state run hospitals government takes action and also show-caused the doctors."  

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 3 March 2017, 16:26 IST