Shreya Nimonkar, resident of Thane, alleged victim of medical negligence and violation of patient’s rights. Her life has become unbearable after surgery. She is struggling for the last three years and has explored every democratic way to seek justice, but without any relief until now. There are many victims like Shreya, but they don’t know whom to approach in the absence of a patient friendly grievance redressal system in Maharashtra. Hundreds of complaints of patients like Shreya’s are pending before the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), since last many years, without any result. Is this because MMC consists mostly of doctor’s representatives, and does not allow adequate space for patients issues to be addressed? Does Maharashtra need a dedicated Clinical Establishments Act with provisions for Patients rights, to ensure a patient friendly grievance redressal system? Shreya’s case and her tireless struggle for justice prompts us to find urgent answers to these burning questions.
In a unique development, the National Human Rights Commission is undertaking a national level enquiry into people’s rights violations in public and private health sectors across India. This includes the status of existing regulatory structures and systemic factors contributing to patient’s rights violations. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in collaboration with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), which is a national network of civil society organisations working on health rights, is organising a series of Regional Public Hearings on Right to Health care in different parts of the country. The first public hearing in this series is in Western Region.The Western region public hearing (covering states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Goa) will be organised at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai on 18th and 19th November 2015.
The main objective of the proposed public hearings would be to review human rights violations in the context of public and private health care services, and to draw attention towards key systemic and policy related issues. NHRC would take steps to ensure action on specific serious cases, and would formulate a range of related recommendations to ensure protection of health rights of the people in the country.
Each public hearing would be of two days duration, consisting of a series of six sessions. In most of the sessions, the modalities used will include testimonies, case studies of institutions or services or programmes and presentations by experts, activists, members of the NHRC Core Group on Health and Special Rapporteurs. To hear and respond to these testimonies and presentations, concerned public officials such as State Health Secretaries, Mission Directors, Directors of Health Services and Medical Education, National and State Medical Councils, Consumer Protection Councils, Chief Medical Officers of Municipal Corporations, officials involved with publicly funded health insurance schemes, officers responsible for regulation of public and private run hospitals will be invited.
The National Human Rights Commission, as regards the private medical sector, would focus on violation of patient’s rights and the functioning of the regulatory mechanisms in place, if any, or the need to put them in place for ensuring basic standards of care and the rights of patients. The Commission would also look into health rights violations in context of publicly funded health insurance schemes and public-private partnership health care arrangements.
According to Kamayini Mahabal, Convener JSA, the intervention will focus primarily on three questions, whether human rights have been violated, which human rights have been violated as well as what further action should be taken.
The National Human Rights Commission would focus on the systemic shortcomings and gaps which exist in the public health delivery system and associated issues like sufficiency/presence of doctors, para-medical facilities and availability of medicines. Sessions on Public Health System will also have themes related with healthcare related issues of women, dalit, adivasi and workers. Denial of benefits under Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana will also be probed.