Oxfam India Pushes for Implementation of Patients’ Rights Charter

Oxfam India Pushes for Implementation of Patients’ Rights Charter

The devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the gaps in India’s healthcare system. While a lot has been said and written about the absent infrastructure, lack of human resources and gross underfunding of the health system, it is important to put this into the context of healthcare as a constitutionally mandated fundamental right. This must also include protection and promotion of patients’ rights through Patients’ Rights Charter (PRC), a set of 13 interconnected patients’ rights notified by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in August 2018.

Even after three years, PRC remains to be adopted by the health departments of states and union territories (UTs). Supreme Court has recently issued notice to the Union Government over non-compliance of PRC considering the urgency of the matter.

Oxfam India has been advocating for the adoption of PRC ever since the pandemic began. During the pandemic, hospitals have been overcharging, denying treatment, falsely imprisoning for non-payment of bills, holding dead bodies hostage and discriminating based on caste, religion, and gender. These are not just non-compliance of patients’ rights but also gross violations of over dozes of Indian laws linked to fundamental rights in the constitution itself as NHRC shown in this November 2019 notification.

Oxfam India’s #RightsOverProfits campaign has been demanding implementation of PRC in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha. We have been mobilizing communities, creating awareness, getting endorsements from officials and elected representatives. Way before the second wave hit, we have been organizing discussions and public gathering in Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur, Chandauli, Pratapgarh, Hamirpur and other districts since January 2021. Many district collectors (DCs) in Uttar Pradesh have acknowledged the positive role of PRC and given go ahead to display the same in public health facilities under their jurisdiction.

Similarly in Odisha, Oxfam India organised successful PRC awareness campaign in March 2021 in five districts. With the support from the administration, PRC has been displayed at 3 primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centers (CHCs) in each campaign district. We also met with 25 members of legislative assembly (MLAs) in Odisha to sensitize them about the importance of PRC.

An MLA meet on PRC was organised on 26 March 2021, to discuss the Patients’ Rights Charter and its notification in the state of Odisha. The meet was attended by 11 MLAs including Speaker of Odisha Assembly Surya Narayan Patro, 3 Ministers including Health Minister Sri Naba Kishore Das, Science and Technology Minister Sri Ashok Chandra Panda, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Minister Divya Shankar Mishra. Health Minister and Speaker expressed their concerns with regards to the violations of Patients’ Rights and committed to organise a meeting with the relevant department dignitaries to discuss the matter in detail and look into the notification process at the earliest.

In Chhattisgarh, the Oxfam India delegation met with the state health minister T S Singh Deo and urged him to notify PRC in the state . He assured of taking up follow up action the issue in April 2021.

After the second wave, it is important to further intensify the campaign for notification of PRC at district, state and national level as PRC is not yet a reality in single state or UT. The Supreme Court’s notice to the union government on the matter provide fresh momentum to push PRC from MoHFW which just informed parliament last week that PRC is pending at the state level. Without PRC, the vision to provide healthcare of all will remain incomplete. Oxfam India will continue to work with communities and state governments to ensure successful implementation of patients’ rights charter along with grievance redressal mechanism. This is crucial for more effective regulation of the private health sector and to make healthcare accessible for all, not just privileged.

Akshay Tarfe is a media specialist at Oxfam India.

📢Oxfam India is now on Telegram. Click here to join our Telegram channel and stay tuned to the latest updates and insights on social and development issues. 


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