The Hindu

House panel moots law to keep a check on private hospitals

A holistic Public Health Act is needed, it says

- Sobhana K. Nair

There should be a comprehens­ive Public Health Act with suitable legal provisions to keep checks and controls over private hospitals in times of a pandemic and to curb black marketing of medicines, the parliament­ary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma, said in a report submitted to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu on Monday.

There had been several reported instances of beds reserved for COVID-19 patients in private hospitals being sold at exorbitant rates, the report noted. “The committee strongly recommends a comprehens­ive Public Health Act, preferably at the national level with suitable legal provisions to support the government in keeping checks and controls over private hospitals as there have been reports about the selling of hospital beds by them,” the report said.

The Act, it stated, should keep a check on black marketing of medicines and on product standardis­ation. It flagged the initial confusion over COVID care medicines and how they were sold at higher rates.

It suggested that the government should be proactive by holding awareness campaigns on cheaper and effective re-purposed medicines to prevent panick-buying of expensive drugs by the people.

The committee observed that in the initial phase of the pandemic, medical insurance was not extended to patients with COVID-19 infection. With exorbitant charges levied by private hospitals, many patients had to suffer.

“There is need to have regulatory oversight on all hospitals in the country to prevent refusal to accept insurance claims. The committee strongly recommends that the target should be to make COVID-19 treatment cashless for all people who have insurance coverage,” the report notes.

While appreciati­ng the work done by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in formulatin­g standard operating procedures, creating awareness, and most importantl­y, acting as a nodal centre for funding manpower deployment to meet exigencies, the committee said the ongoing pandemic was unlike any natural disaster that the NDMA had handled.

“The committee recommends that a separate wing may be formed in the NDMA that will specialise in handling /managing pandemics like COVID-19. This wing may take a leading role in building a partnershi­p of government with the public sector, corporates, NGOs and other stakeholde­rs,” the report observed.

On the economic front, the parliament­ary standing committee said while the government had taken many measures to ameliorate the impact of the pandemic, several schemes have not been implemente­d properly.

“The committee observes that few of these schemes need effective implementa­tion at the ground level. The problems being faced by farmers, non-corporate and non-farm small/micro enterprise­s in getting loans need to be addressed,” the report pointed out.

Consumptio­n had been severely curtailed due to huge job losses and fall in income due to the lockdown. It would take some time to mend, especially after the GDP having a contractio­n of 23.9% in the first quarter of 2020-21.

The report said that more interventi­ons and schemes were required to support the recovery and to sustain this economic revival especially for the MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise­s) sector.

The committee expressed concern that with schools shut down now for more than nine months, many children were deprived of mid-day meal.

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