ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Health : Against Consumer Information

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The West Bengal government appears to have been completely clueless about the medical profession's fine perceptions of commercial exchange when it attempted, through an amendment to the West Bengal Clinical Establishments Act 1950, to ensure that doctors/hospitals publicly displayed the fees they charged for different procedures. The amendment was passed in the assembly in 1998. It sought to tighten mandatory regulations for private sector establishments, among which was the requirement that doctors and establishments should display their rates chart for all procedures, including home visits. But the rules are yet to be framed and without them the amendment cannot be gazetted or implemented. With a section of the doctors set against the amendment, the government will have to get the rules ratified by the state assembly if the requirement of display of charges is to be given effect to.

Just about the only legislation that monitors the practice of medicine in private institutions are laws such as the West Bengal Act which less than half the states have enacted. Even where such laws have been put in place, the rules have not been framed. In most states, there are no prescribed minimum quality or space and physical infrastructure requirements. Nursing homes may, for instance, be housed in an apartment block with a surgery situated on the floor below a leaking toilet. Worse, no medical and asepsis norms are prescribed other than those that a medical professional would adhere to as part of good medical practice. Not a single state has successfully implemented a law that ensures that private medical facilities and individual medical practitioners give their patients the best, most effective and reasonably priced medicare. While there may have been a historical reason for this failure – the country's plans were solely concerned with state health care – there has been time enough to correct it. Unfortunately, the medical community, for far too long unconcerned about codes of conduct and without an efficient body to enforce such guidelines, is now unwilling to allow what it sees as an interfering state to set norms of conduct.

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