The National Health Bill, 2009, seeks to provide health, health equity and justice for all Indians. Medindia has attempted to highlight the fundamental features of the Health Bill and invites its readers to send in their feedbacks.
Right to Health
Right to Health
Every human being has the right to live in dignity and this can only be realized with good health and a sense of well-being. Health is a basic right of every human being - the real wealth which cannot be dispensed with. The right to health facilitates a person to fully enjoy the benefits of other basic human rights.
Advertisement'Right to health' may be translated into timely and appropriate health care - the determining factors of which may be socio-economic, cultural and environmental.
The Constitution of India makes it mandatory for the Government to ensure fulfillment of the right to health for all without any discrimination under Articles 14, 15 and 21 (rights to life, equality and nondiscrimination).
The Supreme Court of India has on several occasions exhorted the Government to bestow health right with legal recognition and to treat it as a vital subset of the fundamental right to life. The National Human Rights Commission has also demanded that a health law must be enacted by the Government of India .
Sadly, in our country, the right to good standards of health is often denied and violated primarily due to the socio-economic imbalance. This is a cause of concern for all right -thinking individuals.
The recently -drafted National Health Bill (2009) by the Health Ministry encompasses all the tenets of health and health care including the underlying determinants and hopes to stride towards the mammoth goal of "health for all".
Important Features of the National Health Bill
Right to Healthcare -
The recently drafted health bill
2009 seeks to
legalize the 'right
along with other issues associated with health rights
treatment - It will
strive to ensure that good treatment be made available to the
vastly neglected groups such as those affected by HIV/AIDS.
between the Center and the State -
The bill demands a broad legal framework (that involves cooperation/
collaborations between the Center and the State) for providing
essential public health services and to monitor its functions, such
as responding to public health emergencies.
According to the National Health Bill 2009 'Patient's Right'
includes emergency care. No individual should be denied emergency
treatment because of his inability to pay fees or due to the
requirement for police clearance
- The new bill also seeks to make it mandatory for the hospitals
to address patient complaints, on a 24 x 7 basis.
of doctor involved in treatment-
Every patient has the right to know name of doctor / nurse involved
in his treatment.
& Second Opinion
- Each patient has the right to avail of a summary of their
condition and also to seek a second opinion.
of Treatment- A
patient may protest against overbilling, transferring elsewhere
without valid reasons and for denying medical records
of healthcare providers -
The rights of healthcare providers is also likely to get legal
The basic tenets of the Bill include -
rights relating to health and healthcare,
of governments and private actors,
principles / norms / standards on rights and obligations,
structure for implementation and monitoring
machinery for health rights.
However, the bill does not interfere with the regulatory tasks and administrative decisions to be taken by governments and local bodies, on the specific measures to be adopted to achieve the target.
The bill also empowers the government to review the existing laws and systems and to make new subordinate legislations and regulations and, overall, ensure the right to health of all people.
"It is hoped that this law would act as a critical tool to empower people about their health and to establish the responsibilities of government and private actors to deliver health rights in a just manner. While understanding the complex socio-economic and political underpinnings of health, it would hopefully serve as an additional device to catalyze the change," health ministry sources said.
Brains Behind the Bill
The recent bill is in response to the long- standing demand by public interest forums like Jan Swasthya Abhiyan. This organization, which is the Indian chapter of the International People's Health Movement, in liaison with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had held public hearings on the health right issue in 2004 - a move has indeed paved the way for this bill.
The bill was drafted last year with the help of a task force comprising of lawyers, medical professionals and public health experts. During October 2008, the draft was presented to the health secretaries after which, in January this year, it was given to the State health ministers for their perusal and feedbacks.
The Tamil Nadu Chapter
seems that HIV/AIDS is not such a big thing and that polio never ever
existed, thanks to the Tamil
Nadu Public Health Act
which does not even render a passing mention of these two dreaded
diseases. The reason for this folly is due to the fact that the Act
was framed as early as 1939 (then known as the Death
Relief Act) when
these diseases were little known. Strangely, this Act guides the
public health policy in the state even today.
Minor amendments were made in 1990, nevertheless significant changes need to be made to cater to the requirements of a fast- changing society and its faster -evolving pathogens.
For the very first time the State government has proposed a complete modification of the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act to suit public health requirements and to create a new legal framework that would enable a better response to public health emergencies.
Justifying the need for such sweeping changes, the TN Public Health Act Amendments Committee has noted: "Population dynamics, migration, changes in climate, lifestyle changes and the developments in the transport system are the major causes of epidemics and pandemic threats."
In the amendment infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, chikungunya, malaria, polio and dengue have found mention for the first time ever.
"Some of these infections were not even heard of when the Act was first framed, but as we move ahead, we have to take the law with us," says Dr. S. Elango member secretary of the Committee
In the interest of public health, the amendment seeks to regulate the use of plastic, its abuse and its disposal. Plastic is to be categorized as offensive matter as it can cause health hazards.
Public disposal of wastes has been updated to include biomedical wastes and toxic chemicals/substances.
According to Dr. Elango, changes are also sought in government administrative machinery and there is to be an increase in the fine amount for any violation of the Public Health Act.
Many of the Central Govt. health Acts are obselete and have no meaning. Most were written with the Government hospitals in mind without looking at the private sector hospitals. Today majority of healthcare in the country is being delivered by these private hospitals. One of the first few acts that need to be amended include the Mental Health Act.
Waiting For Their Turn
The Union of India is yet to legislate on the following-
stabilization and family planning
of births and deaths and other vital statistics for health
and food safety;
safety and welfare, includingmaternity benefits;
Education, employment, Social
security and social insurance;
Legal / medical professions;
Prevention / control of communicable diseases;
seamen 's and marine hospitals
The Union of India has also signed various international agreements, declarations and treaties, related to the implementation of the right to health. As the Indian Healthcare system is almost crumbling, it is necessary to activate these treaties effectively and to pass the National Health Bill at the earliest.
Dr Reeja Tharu