By - King Stubb & Kasiva on March 31, 2023
The Right to Health Bill is a proposed law aimed at ensuring access to essential healthcare services. In India, it is recognized as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. According to the law, all residents have the right to free emergency treatment at any health institution in the state. Neither government nor private hospitals nor doctors can refuse emergency treatment. Rajasthan has passed the Right to Health Bill, which gives all residents the right to free services at all public and private health facilities. The bill provides for residents of Rajasthan to avail free health services in any clinical establishment, including consultations, medicines, and diagnostics.
Emergency treatment and care are available at all healthcare providers without prepayment, and residents can access referral transport. Additionally, they can receive free transportation, free treatment, and free insurance coverage against road accidents at healthcare establishments.
However, this step has faced criticism from those belonging to different school of thought who are demanding the withdrawal of the legislation. The conflict between protesting doctors and the government of Rajasthan regarding the Right to Health Bill remains unresolved, which led to government doctors and medical college faculty members declaring a one-day mass leave in the state to support private doctors. The Rajasthan doctor’s strike has impacted patient care, with many private hospitals and nursing homes in the state closed for several days. Due to the doctor’s strike in Rajasthan, the services were held disrupted in government hospitals as well.
The bill recognizes that access to essential healthcare services is a fundamental right and seeks to ensure that every individual has access to basic health services without facing financial hardships. The bill also aims to provide for the creation of a national health service that will be responsible for ensuring the delivery of essential healthcare services.
The bill recognizes that access to healthcare services is not just about availability but also about the quality of healthcare services. The bill aims to ensure that there is adequate healthcare infrastructure and personnel to provide quality healthcare services to all individuals.
The bill recognizes the importance of health education and awareness in improving the health outcomes of individuals. The bill seeks to ensure that there is adequate provision for health education and awareness programs to be conducted at the community level.
The bill recognizes the importance of protecting public health and seeks to ensure that there are adequate measures in place to prevent and control the spread of diseases.
The bill recognizes the importance of accountability and transparency in healthcare delivery and seeks to ensure that there are adequate mechanisms in place to monitor and evaluate the delivery of healthcare services
According to an analysis by non-profit PRS Legislative Research, the Right to Health Bill lacks clarity on whether the state will reimburse private clinical establishments for providing free services. This could potentially violate Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade, or business. If private establishments are obligated to provide free services without reimbursement, they may face financial difficulties and potentially shut down.
The Bill also requires the District Health Authority to publish an action-taken report on a web portal for complaints, but it does not specify who will have access to this report. This could potentially infringe on a patient's right to privacy in medical cases. The implementation of the Right to Health Act may increase the financial burden on the state, but the Bill does not account for such additional costs.
In 1996, the Supreme Court of India established that the right to life (Article 21) encompasses the right to health, and emphasized the responsibility of state governments to provide healthcare services. Public health and sanitation, including hospitals and dispensaries, are under the State List as per the Constitution. In 2018, the National Commission on Human Rights (NHRC) formulated the Charter of Patient Rights for implementation by state governments. Rajasthan has implemented certain health coverage schemes, such as the Mukhyamantri Chiranjeevi Swasthya Bima Yojana, which provides coverage for medical treatment in over 1,550 public and private hospitals in the state.
The Rajasthan Right to Health Bill, 2022 was introduced in the Rajasthan Assembly on September 22, 2022, and referred to a Select Committee led by the Minister of Health and Medical Services, Parsadi Lal Meena. The ongoing Rajasthan doctors strike by private doctors has led to the closure of most private hospitals and nursing homes, resulting in a significant increase in patient load at government hospitals. In solidarity with the protesting private practitioners, doctors at government hospitals have also joined the strike.
Over the doctor’s strike in Rajasthan medical services remains crippled. Rajasthan doctor’s strike is strictly opposing the bill as it does not specify whether private clinical establishments will be reimbursed for providing free services. This lack of clarity on reimbursement could lead to financial losses for private healthcare providers and potentially even the closure of some establishments. In addition, there are concerns that the implementation of the bill may increase the financial burden on the state, and there is no provision in the bill to account for these additional costs.
It is also worth noting that some doctors may have concerns about the quality of healthcare services that will be provided under the bill. Providing free healthcare services to a large population may strain the healthcare system, potentially leading to longer wait times, overcrowding, and lower quality of care.
Numerous associations of doctors in Rajasthan are concerned that the Right to Health Bill, of 2022 could be detrimental to medical professionals, especially those who are in private practice. Opponents of the bill argue that it disregards the advice of medical experts, is poorly planned, and neglects the practical aspects of the healthcare system. The doctors are apprehensive that the legislation will lead to more bureaucratic intervention in their work. They see the implementation of the law as an impractical method of providing healthcare and a potential burden for private hospitals. According to the protesting doctors, the law will offer minimal advantages to the residents of the state.
The right to health has been broadly defined to encompass a range of factors, including access to basic healthcare services, safe drinking water, sanitation, and a clean environment. Despite constitutional guarantees, a significant proportion of the Indian population still lacks access to essential healthcare services. The National Health Policy introduced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2017 aimed to address this issue by ensuring that quality healthcare services are accessible to all without financial difficulties.
The policy also envisaged increasing public spending on health from the current level of 1.15% of GDP to 2.5% of GDP by 2025. The introduction of the Right to Health Bill is a positive step towards realizing the goal of providing essential healthcare services to every individual. The bill recognizes the right to health as a fundamental human right and seeks to make it justifiable. Although there are some criticisms of the proposed legislation, it has the potential to significantly enhance health outcomes for people.
The Right to Health Bill, 2022 is a proposed legislation in Rajasthan aimed at providing every resident of the state with the right to access essential healthcare services, facilities, and drugs. The bill seeks to ensure that all individuals, irrespective of their socioeconomic status, are entitled to affordable and equitable health services.
Several private doctors and hospitals in Rajasthan are protesting the implementation of the Right to Health Bill, 2022, citing concerns over increased bureaucratic interference and potential financial burden. They argue that the bill may undermine the autonomy of private healthcare providers and negatively impact the quality of healthcare services provided to patients.
In response to the strike by doctors in Rajasthan, the government has formed a Select Committee to review and address the concerns raised by the protesting medical professionals. Additionally, government doctors and medical college faculty members in the state have declared a one-day mass leave in solidarity with private doctors. The government is engaging in dialogue with the striking doctors to find a resolution to the ongoing conflict.
Consumer Education and Research Centre and Others v. Union of India (AIR 1996 SC 922).
Patient Charter for comments, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, [accessed 30 March 2023], https://main.mohfw.gov.in/sites/default/files/PatientCharterforcomments.pdf.
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