Stakeholders welcome right to health legislation in state, say implementation will be test of Act
Sonal Matharu | April 4, 2010
One of the highlights of the Assam Public Health Bill 2010 - passed unanimously by the state assembly on March 31 - is that all the government and private hospitals, nursing homes and health centres will now have to provide free emergency treatment to patients for the first 24 hours.
Though this is the first time any state has taken a step forward in recognising health as a fundamental right, health experts argue that the private health care providers may find a way to escape the liability of proving free treatment.
The way hospitals define ‘emergency’ may now change.
“The hospitals might just bandage accident emergency patients and discharge them. Some of the required tests and investigations may now exclude from the emergency treatment,” said Dr. Shyamprasad, a former member of the committee on the task force for schemes under the National Rural Health Mission.
“The private hospitals are based on profit motive and are therefore manned. People would prefer to go to these hospitals now. The government hospitals in the state are in a pitiable condition. If implemented effectively, the Act will benefit the people,” said Mukul Goswami from Ashadeep NGO working in the health sector in Assam.
In India, not only three-fourth of health expenditure is out-of-pocket, it is also gradually shifting in private hands making medical treatments expensive.
The Assam Public Health Bill is in favour of the public and should be a wake-up call for the other states with better health infrastructure, says Goswami.
However, the loopholes in the bill would be known better once the Act is implemented. Not only framing of the Act, but to check its effective implementation and enforce strict laws where it is failing would finally judge its success.
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