Private Hospitals In Bad Health, Taking Poor Patients For A Ride

  • Dec 23 , 2017

Bollywood has often been termed as a reflection of the society, which according to me is quite true. After all, it has succeeded in showing us the unfortunate state of many aspects of our country including the hospitals – both public and private, where a mother has been shown to run from pillar to post to pay the medical bill.

Even though we have been watching this scene repeatedly in our movies for the past so many decades, the reality still is the same.

Over the years, the neglect of investments in improving the public health infrastructure and promoting private hospitals to fill the gap have created a dependency on the private sector. Also, the private sector has been promoted without a regulatory framework, especially on healthcare charges, which further ruined the whole situation.

In our country, this is a common trend where families are known to have lost everything just because of the inflated costs of treatment in the private health sector. With government hospitals and clinics over-flowing with patients along with lack of funds, equipment and manpower, people have no other recourse but to knock the doors of private hospitals. And in no time, they are flooded with bills that leave them with no choice but to sell their meagre possessions.

Sadly, this corruption happens right under the nose of central and state governments which, even after knowing the poor state does nothing.

Photo Courtesy: Livemint

India’s Total Health Expenditure (THE) according to the national health accounts during 2014-15 was estimated at 3.89 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in which the government’s share in THE was only 1.13 per cent.

India is also short of 3,469 Community Health Centres (CHC) for 1, 00,000 people, 5,887 Primary Health Centres (PHC) for every 30,000 people and 27,430 sub-centres for every 5,000 persons. And because of this, it has led to a situation wherein almost 80 per cent of tertiary care and 60 per cent of primary care is provided by the private sector.

Another major flaw in the whole system is the exploitation of patients, wherein, private hospitals and clinics overcharge them, keeping their health at ransom. Shockingly, every year around 63 million people are pushed below the poverty line for paying their medical and hospital bills.

The recent Fortis and Max hospital cases are a reminder of such situations. Many such corruption in the private healthcare sector goes unreported, which shows how the private hospitals are overcharging their patients and exploiting the vulnerable ones. 

According to a report by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), Max Hospital abused its position and charged disposable syringes at Rs 19.20 per unit while the MRP in the open market was Rs 11. On similar grounds, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) also found that hospitals were charging 650 per cent hike on drug related to cardiovascular stents and 450 per cent hike in knee implants.

The present alarming situation needs an urgent intervention from the government to regulate the healthcare sector as soon as possible and imposing a ceiling on the prices. One of the only ways is to use the Clinical Establishment Act (CEA) to regulate healthcare charges, through either rules or direction from the government to the implementation authority.

According to me, there should be only one national authority to regulate the healthcare sector. Although, health falls within the state list, it does not mean that the Central government cannot control the prices of healthcare charges.

So, it is high time that the Central government should stop passing the buck and show the political will to ensure access to affordable healthcare by imposing a ceiling on healthcare charges.