Parliamentary Panel Slams Fleecing Of Covid-19 Patients By Private Hospitals, Recommends Health Infrastructure Upgrade

Parliamentary Panel Slams Fleecing Of Covid-19 Patients By Private Hospitals, Recommends Health Infrastructure Upgrade Treatment at a hospital. (Pic Via Twitter)
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  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health has called for urgent capacity-building measures to fight outbreak of pandemics.

Coming down heavily on the private hospitals for charging exorbitant fees for Covid-19 cases, a parliamentary committee has recommended that all Indians must be vaccinated against the virus, and the government must create a mechanism in advance to check black marketing and hoarding of the vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

Taking note of abysmally low spending in the healthcare and fragility of Indian health ecosystem, the parliamentary committee has observed that a sustainable pricing model could have averted many Covid deaths in the country.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health in its latest report has asserted that in the absence of specific guidelines for treatment amid rising cases resulted in private hospitals charging exorbitant fees.

While submitting the report, chairman of the standing committee Ram Gopal Yadav was critical of the Centre's handling of the pandemic and noted that healthcare should never be limited to only those who can afford to pay but should move towards the noble vision of universal health coverage.

"Outbreak of Pandemic Covid-19 and its Management" report was submitted to the Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu virtually.

According to the panel, the primary objective behind identifying the subject is to assess the response of the government to contain and mitigate the unprecedented outbreak of the pandemic.

The purpose of the report is not to criticise the government’s course of action in combating the pandemic but to identify the implementation gaps during the course of executing its contingent plan.

Observing that the public had to undergo trauma and distress due to absence of a dedicated healthcare system, the panel said that the number of government hospital beds in the country were not adequate to handle the increasing number of Covid and non-Covid patients.

Recommending the setting up of post-Covid clinics, the committee has said that even among people who recover, complications are rampant, and they are serious. "So there should be regular and comprehensive follow up among people," the report said.

The panel also appealed to the government to provide Covid vaccine — when available — to the poor at subsidised rates.

The committee has recommended the ministry to collaborate with Serum Institute of India and other vaccine manufacturers so that vaccines are easily available at an affordable rate to the general public.

Calling upon the Health Ministry to subsidise the vaccine cost for the weaker section of the country and especially in rural areas or the urban slum areas, it said the ministry should be cautious in its efforts to check instances of black-marketing and shortage of vaccines.

The committee has appreciated the government’s initiatives and management of Covid-19 in a country of 1.30 billion people.

The emphasis of the committee report is to highlight the opportunity for transformation of health infrastructure of global standard, assimilation of latest health technology, nurturing of skilled health cadre, mainstreaming the AYUSH system and its integration with modern system of medicine.

The committee strongly believes that the need of the hour is adequate investment for the development of infrastructure of the health sector with the intent of making provision for the best healthcare delivery system.

Highlighting the grossly inadequate number of beds in government hospitals, the committee noted that lack of hospital beds and the inadequate ventilator facilities further complicated the efficacy of the containment plan against the pandemic. As the numbers of cases were on the rise, a frantic search for vacant hospital beds became quite harrowing. Instances of patients being turned away from overburdened hospitals became the new normal.

Slamming the poor state of the healthcare system, the committee recommended increasing investment in public health infrastructure.

Expressing concerns over the instances of lack of oxygen cylinders in the hospitals and increase in the demand for non-invasive oxygen cylinders, the committee advocates the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority to take appropriate measures for capping the price of the oxygen cylinders so that the availability as well as affordability of the oxygen cylinders is ensured in all hospitals.

Highlighting the lack of relevant skills required for epidemic outbreak investigation among the healthcare workers, the committee has called for urgent capacity building measures and maintaining the pool of health resources to fight against the outbreak of pandemics.

The committee has strongly supported the demand for the Indian Health Service (IHS) across the country as a dedicated, efficient, and adequately resourced public health cadre on the pattern of Indian Administrative Service.

Creation of IHS can help in streamlining the healthcare delivery as envisaged in the National Health Policy 2017.

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