Even as Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday pulled up private hospitals for indulging in “immoral practices” and the police grilled the CEO of Apollo Hospital where a patient died because of alleged negligence on March 2, doctors and the state appeared to be heading for confrontation.
“Why have government hospitals been kept out of the ambit of the new West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017? Also, how can the government introduce penal measures against doctors? Soon, doctors will simply stop attending to critical patients,” Dr K K Aggarwal, president, Indian Medical Association, told HT from Delhi.
“We have sought an appointment with Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi this week. We have already written to him and sought his intervention,” he added.
The bill has been sent to the governor for his consent. “The governor is out of station. He is expected to return tonight,” a governor house spokesperson told HT on Tuesday afternoon.
The most salient feature of the new bill is formation of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission that will not only work as the watchdog body but will also address complaints from patients and order action against private institutions. Significantly, the Bill says that the commission’s orders cannot be challenged in any civil court.
IMA has a strong presence among doctors in Bengal and it has branches across the state. “If doctors are subjected to penal action for doing their duty we will have no option but to move court,” said a senior surgeon in Kolkata.
“There are provisions in the bill that violate fundamental rights protected by the Constitution. Moreover why should there be another law for claiming compensation when it is already included in the Consumer Protection Act? If they continue to face such attacks, doctors will stop practising,” said Dr Aggarwal. “Doctors are not gods. One has to understand that they cannot make all patients live. Patients die in hospitals,” iterated the IMA president.
On March 3, Banerjee, who is also the state health minister, took a major step towards bringing private hospitals, nursing homes, maternity homes et al under government surveillance. She placed the Bill at the Assembly and got it passed after a brief debate. “This bill will become the national model someday…. I had no intention to interfere in the business of private hospitals. But enough is enough,” she said.
According to the 25-page Bill, patients dying or suffering at private hospitals and nursing homes because of negligence or bad management will have to be financially compensated. And, health establishments and doctors will face penal action, ranging from criminal proceedings under the Indian Penal Code to cancellation of licence, if found guilty of negligence and extortion.
“Running a hospital is a public service. It is not a business like any other. I request aggrieved families not to vent their anger on hospital property and personnel. They should file complaints against erring doctors. At the same time I am asking hospitals to treat the poor and middle class with a humane face. Don’t fleece them,” Banerjee said on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Sujata Pandey, wife of Sunil Pandey, who died at a private hospital in the East Jadavpur area on Monday filed a complaint of medical negligence at the office the state health secretary. On Wednesday, she will meet the chief minister. Pandey, it is alleged, underwent a “wrong operation” and his leg was amputated after doctors claimed that he underwent angioplasty. The hospital, interestingly, is one of those that were pulled up by the chief minister at a meeting last month.