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Working to improve access to health care

Graphic: Doctor examines a patient, India

The National Human Rights Commission of India recently held a public hearing to address cases of poor medical care.

The National Human Rights Commission of India recently held a two-day public hearing for the Western Region of the country on the Right to Health Care.

Held on 6-7 January 2016, the hearing was run in collaboration with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a network of civil society organisations working on health issues.

The States of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan were covered during the public hearing, with government health officials from each State attending the hearing, along with a large number of NGOs. The Central Government's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was also represented at the hearing.

The main objective was to hear complaints of human rights violations in the public and private health care services, as well as to identify systemic barriers and develop recommendations to improve access to health services.

On the first day of the public hearing, the Commission examined 88 cases of alleged violation of rights to health care, across three separate benches, with compensation of Rs. 4,25,000 recommended in five cases.

These cases included: amputation of limb because of medical negligence and delay in treatment; mental agony and trauma faced by a woman and child because of wrong HIV report; taking a patient to a private hospital by ambulance doctor without consent; and denial of right to health because of absence of doctor in a primary health centre.

The Commission issued "show cause" notices to the Government of Rajasthan in three cases as to why compensation should not be recommended to be paid to the victims or their next of kin.

The Commission also directed the State Governments to conduct detailed enquiries in a number of cases.

During the second day, presentations were made by NGOs on several systemic issues which they said were responsible for the violation of heath rights of a large number of people in these States.

The issues raised included: access to maternal health services and problems with implementation of the national maternal health scheme, Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana; denial of sonography services; occupational health care and need for improvement in the ESI Scheme (a health insurance scheme for Indian workers); and the need for comprehensive community monitoring to address violations of the right to health.

The role of State Medical Councils in promoting and protecting the rights of patients was also discussed in order to ensure that patients had access to an effective grievance mechanism.

A large number of recommendations were developed based on evidence presented to the hearing. These are currently being taken up by the Commission for action with the concerned authorities.

Source: National Human Rights Commission of India

Date: 11 March 2016


Image credits

  1. Doctor examines a patient, India - Ray Witlin/World Bank, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1WFZDIa