Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee, also West Bengal’s health minister, on Friday passed a bill in Assembly that laid down the law for private hospitals – there will be no more ‘extortion’ by them. Opposition says old wine in new bottle and that it is sure to be legally challenged.
In Assembly, eight legislators from the ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition had spoken when Ms Banerjee walked in. News cameras were allowed in and started rolling as Ms Banerjee began to speak. The Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill 2017 was the result, she said, of a year-long survey of 900 plus hospitals.
“Enough is enough,” Ms Banerjee said. “Hospitals are fleecing patients. Bills are getting bigger… This problem exists across the country and once this bill is passed, they should all follow it.”
She recounted how the survey exposed a hospital demanded the deed of an ancestral property from a patient before treatment. From another, it demanded fixed deposit papers. Once when she underwent an MRI, it showed she had an appendix when it had already been removed. From now, acid, rape, accident and natural disaster victims cannot be turned away by private hospitals, a rate chart will fix cost of medical procedures, hospitals cannot detain dead bodies for pending dues. Compensation can range from Rs. 3 to Rs. 50 lakh, payable in six months.
Implementing the Act would be a regulatory commission with sweeping powers whose orders cannot be challenged in most courts. It would be headed by a former judge or top bureaucrat. Not legally tenable, says opposition. Sujan Chakraborty, CPM legislator, said, “The bill is most likely to be challenged in court. We suggested amendments but we were not heard. The chief minister played to the gallery.” Congress’s Asit Mitra said, “It’s a controversial bill.”
Legal opinion is still divided on the issue. After private hospitals, Mamata Banerjee has set up two new agendas. Speeding two-wheelers will be seized and fees charged by private schools will soon come under the government scanner.