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State’s ailing healthcare

Most private nursing homes and hospitals don’t have trained staff to deal with emergency cases. They don’t give patients their medical records nor seek patients’ consent before conducting HIV tests.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2009 01:12 IST
Neha Bhayana

Most private nursing homes and hospitals don’t have trained staff to deal with emergency cases. They don’t give patients their medical records nor seek patients’ consent before conducting HIV tests. Worse still, the majority of them don’t even have an independent mechanism to address patients’ grievances.

This is what a statewide study conducted by the Mumbai-based non-profit Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) has found.

The researchers interviewed the heads of 261 nursing homes and hospitals with up to 30 beds to gauge the quality of healthcare in the private sector.

The staff at 51 per cent of the hospitals had no training in emergency care.

The situation was the worst in Mumbai — only 23 per cent of the hospitals reported to have trained staff. Only one of the 261 hospitals had staff trained for Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation — a basic life-saving technique. “A Supreme Court directive states that all patients should get emergency treatment. It is evident that untrained staff is entrusted with the job,” said CEHAT co-ordinator Padma Deosthali.

Dr Lalit Kapoor, who runs a nursing home and heads the Association for Medical Consultants, disagreed with the finding. “If a doctor has a degree, he has to know emergency care. Nursing homes are forced to hire nurses from unrecognised colleges because there is an acute shortage, but they are trained, too,” he said.

Though there is no legislation enforcing patients’ rights such as right to information and non-discrimination, the researchers queried hospitals to see whether they voluntarily take them into consideration.

One fourth of the hospitals did not give patients their medical records even on request.

“By not giving medical records, hospitals are making it difficult for patients to seek a second opinion or challenge the treatment in a consumer court,” said researcher Ritu Khatri.

A significant number of hospitals were found to be flouting a National AIDS Control Organisation guideline, which states that HIV testing should be voluntary. Thirteen per cent of the hospitals conducted HIV tests for all patients and 50 per cent make all surgical patients undergo the test.

Around 43 per cent of the hospitals did not take the patient’s consent before the HIV test.

Dr Kapoor defended the practice. “We have to know a patient’s HIV status so we can take precautions and there is no law making it compulsory to take consent.”

The study also showed that only 31 of the 261 hospitals surveyed had an independent mechanism for handling grievances.