New Delhi: Unregistered clinics and medical centres that provide unsatisfactory services may have to buckle up. The government is about to introduce a Bill in Parliament that will, for the first time, introduce compulsory registration of all medical establishments and also set up a national council that will lay down a common minimum standard for health services in the country. It will empower the Union government to penalize those who fail to meet these standards.
The Union cabinet on Thursday approved the introduction of this Bill during the monsoon session, which begins on 25 July. “The Bill proposes to set minimum standards for health care facilities and services for the entire country,” information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said. “It will also set the process in motion for creating a national registry of clinical establishments.”
To start with, the government will survey and launch preliminary registration of all medical outfits and categorize them according to the kind of services provided. A different minimum standard will be put in place for private first-aid clinics, village health centres, nursing homes and doctor’s clinics, for instance. Medical-test laboratories, a flourishing new business taking off in rural and urban areas, will also be given a grade.
The Bill has drawn mixed reactions from the industry—a $15.51 billion (Rs63,591 crore) sector that will more than double to $35.9 billion by 2012, according to a Ficci-Ernst & Young study.
“Till now, there was no registration and regulation, not even a database on the activities going on in the sector. These will get tabulated now. Also, laying down of minimum quality standards is a very welcome step,” Rana Mehta, vice-president (health care) with Technopak, said.
Not everyone is happy with the latest government decree, though.
“The Bill is a complete eyewash,” said Anil Bansal, a member of the Delhi Medical Council, a quasi-judicial body under the Delhi government, and a doctor with the New Delhi Municipal Corp. “It’ll just add anther layer of bureaucracy and benefit only the lobby of five-star corporate hospitals. The quality standardization norms will be just another stifling tactic for independent practising doctors.”
According to Bansal, India has 10 lakh “fake” doctors while Delhi alone has 40,000 quacks, who prescribe and disburse drugs without being qualified to do so. “Why doesn’t the government crack down on fake doctors and bring in an anti-quackery Bill first?” asks Bansal.
An official close to the development, who did not want to be named, said that permanent, compulsory registration of clinics will be done after the Bill is passed and the new rules are notified. “At first we only want to get to know the extent of the problem we have in India with unregistered clinics and substandard health care,” the official said.
At present, state governments register medical establishments but, under the new policy, the Centre will set up a national council that will determine standards for all clinical establishments. “The aim is to ensure that unregistered clinics, quacks’ outfits or illegal medical centres of any kind should not be allowed to run,” the official said.
The medical council, dental council, nursing council, pharmacy council and central council of homeopathy will be part of the new national council that will set the minimum standards. It will also review compliance periodically and set up a “national register for clinical establishments” to track all medical centres and collect statistics on the health sector.
Representatives of traditional systems of medicine such as Unani and Ayurveda will also be part of the council.