The robust enthusiasm with which the Clinical Establishments Bill, 2017 was passed by the West Bengal government on March 17 should not be allowed to flag. The Bill aims at bringing transparency, ending harassment of patients and checking medical negligence in private hospitals and nursing homes. There is no gainsaying about the CM’s well-intentioned initiative. But, what causes concern is that two probe committees have submitted their reports about a month ago. But the public is still in the dark about the details of reports.
The West Bengal Clinical Establishments Act has created a Health Commission with the powers of a court. It can cancel hospital licences besides filing FIRs against doctors for suspected negligence. Doctors can be jailed for up to three years under the Act.
We witnessed chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s trademark determination when she blasted owners and staff of private hospitals at Town Hall. She gave a blow-by-blow account of how private hospitals have been taking people for a ride, focusing only on mindless profiteering without providing ‘service’. She made a blistering attack on the unscrupulous doctors (she, of course, said not all doctors are bad) who cock a snook at ethics and morality and continue with their unethical practices.
There were two allegations against the Apollo Hospital: Its negligence in Sanjoy Roy’s death on February 23 and utter irresponsibility of the doctors concerned and the inflated billing and the use of force by the Apollo in getting the money from Roy’s family.
The two probe reports are allegedly lying at Shasthyo Bhavan even though they are supposed to be submitted to the Health Commission.
This is where we need the political will. We hope Mamata Banerjee will act in a more proactive manner and she will be uncompromising in implementing the Act.
Media is a powerful tool with great influence on people’s lives. It can educate and impact people positively about certain issues. Public memory is short and that’s why the media must keep writing on the issue and not let the issue die down. It must keep the heat on the private hospitals’ mindless profiteering and doctors’ unethical practices.
Will the media keep the heat on the predatory private hospitals and the rapacious doctors? Will the media go harder and unearth the nexus between the hospital owners and those influential guys in the powers that be?
Only time will tell.
If the media fails to perform its duty, I won’t be surprised if the sacked CEO of the Apollo Hospitals comes back in a few year’s time, maybe in a different capacity.
We’ve seen how the AMRI Hospital at Dhakuria, where 90 people perished in a devastating fire on December 9, 2011, reopened after two years of the horrific incident. It has been alleged that the hospital authority had connections with the powers that be and that helped them to restart the business.
Distraught families of the victims are thoroughly unhappy as the AMRI fire case has not been settled even after six years and no one has been convicted even though it’s clear that the hospital authority violated safety regulations at the hospital’s basement that led to the tragedy.
Will the media will stand up against powerful interests and demonstrate courage, conviction and an unflinching resolve in fighting for a cause which humanity will remember?