In a first, Assam to guarantee right to health
GUWAHATI: A quiet revolution to create a healthier India has kicked off in the east with Assam on Thursday becoming the first state in the country to introduce a bill guaranteeing the right to health and well-being.
Responding to an appeal from the Centre for legislating on health rights, the state government tabled the landmark Assam Public Health Bill, 2010, in the assembly. The bill, which will be put to vote on March 31 and should sail through, proposes path-breaking provisions for health equity and justice to achieve the goal of health for all.
It makes it mandatory for all new development projects to carry out a health impact assessment. It also proposes to make it compulsory for both government and private hospitals to provide free healthcare services and maintain appropriate protocol of treatment for the first 24 hours to an emergency patient.
“Health does not mean just doctors and hospitals, but everything that influences the well-being of a human being. This is a historic bill and we are the pioneers in the country after the Centre requested all states to bring a law on the right to health," said Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
After tabling the bill, Sarma said that the statute sought to bind the state health and family welfare department legally to meet its obligations — coordination with other departments concerned and providing people with minimum nutritionally adequate essential food, adequate supply of safe drinking water, sanitation through appropriate and effective sewage and drainage systems and access to basic housing facilities.
Sarma added that the bill provides for the health and family welfare department to take appropriate legal steps for fixing responsibility and accountability of departments and agencies concerned in case of repeated outbreaks or recurrence of communicable, viral and water-borne diseases, which are found in a particular area and proved to have taken place because of the failure to improve sanitation and safe drinking water facilities.
“Every citizen will have the right to health. In case government hospitals fail to provide medical care because of absence of doctors, the patient will be entitled to remedial measures to be prescribed by the department,’’ he said.
Bill for ‘right’ to healthcare
- 24-hr free emergency service mooted
Guwahati, March 11: The Assam government today moved a bill to make emergency treatment free for the first 24 hours in all hospitals, including private ones and nursing homes.
Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the bill was the first step towards making healthcare a fundamental right and hoped that it would “revolutionise the health sector in the state”.
He said under the Assam Public Health Bill, 2010, all hospitals or health establishments would have to provide free healthcare to an emergency patient of any kind for the first 24 hours.
“The basic idea is to ensure that in case of any emergency, a patient who is in an extremely serious condition immediately gets treatment in any hospital for the first 24 hours free of cost,” he said.
“Patients who cannot afford treatment in private hospitals can later be shifted to a government hospital after getting immediate necessary treatment for the first 24 hours in a private hospital, which is very crucial in saving lives.”
Sarma said after the bill is passed in the Assembly, rules would be framed to define “emergency” under the legislation. The bill will come up for discussion in the Assembly on March 31.
“The bill seeks to provide protection and fulfilment of rights in relation to health and well-being, health equity and justice for achieving the goal of health for all,” he said.
The bill prescribes remedial measures in case a patient fails to receive attention in a government hospital or health establishment because of absence of doctors or any other medical staff.
These measures will be finalised and incorporated in the rules to be framed under this legislation.
Sarma said such patients would be entitled to monetary compensation.
The bill also states that every patient has the right to have the complete medical records of at least two years pertaining to his case to be maintained by the service provider (hospitals).
Sarma said the bill provides for the constitution of a state public health board at the state level and district public health boards at the district level to ensure implementation and monitoring of the provisions of healthcare system.
The chairperson of the state public health board will be the chief secretary while that of a district public health board will be the deputy commissioner of the district.
The bill also provides for fixing responsibility and accountability of departments or agencies in case of repeated outbreaks or recurrence of communicable, viral and waterborne diseases because of failure to improve sanitation and safe drinking facilities.
It states that health impact assessment would have to be generated for all new development projects to study the impact of the projects on the health of the people.
Sarma claimed that Assam was the first state to bring such a bill that makes access to healthcare — so far treated as “charity” — a right of the people.
Well its not going to be perfect by any definition of the word, But it will save lives, and with proper enforcement, possibly even function effectively.
Other states may also follow suit, if it shows success in gaining the popularity of the Rural masses.