The Delhi government has proposed regulations aimed at restricting private hospitals and nursing homes from “profiteering” — be it by marking up prices of various medicines and consumables, or adding “hidden charges” to operative procedures.
The draft advisory has been prepared on the basis of recommendations by a nine-member expert panel, headed by Director-General of Health Services Kirti Bhushan. The panel was set up by the Delhi government on December 13 following allegations of private hospitals charging excessively.
Stating that the draft has been put out in the public domain, Health Minister Satyendar Jain said, “We are inviting suggestions and objections for 30 days. After that, we will implement the policy with revisions… The draft advisory would be implemented by amending the Delhi Nursing Homes Registration Act and, eventually, it would mean that a private hospital or a nursing home could lose its licence to operate in Delhi, in case it violates these norms.”
The draft recommends that hospitals should “preferably” prescribe drugs mentioned in the National List of Essential Medicines 2011 (NLEM) — a list of essential medicines prepared by the Ministry of Health, considered essential in the country. The minister added, “Prior to prescribing drugs not on the list, patients need to be counselled.” It adds that hospitals can’t force patients to buy medicines from its in-house pharmacy, while exceptions can be made for “emergency/critical cases”.
While prices of NLEM drugs are already fixed by the government, the draft adds that private hospitals and nursing homes can’t mark up drugs not on the list, disposables and consumables by more than 50% from the purchase price. This mark-up is limited to 35% for implants.
In case of a patient dying within six hours of arrival at the hospital, the draft recommends a waiver of 50 per cent of the total bill, and a 20 per cent waiver in cases of death within 24 hours.
“Body of a deceased patient cannot be forcibly withheld by a hospital and denied to the family for want of payment of due bills. There has to be dignity in death,” he said.
The draft added that packages offered by private hospitals for operations need to be “transparent and without hidden charges”.