No patient should be denied emergency medical care for both Covid-19 and non-Covid conditions, according to a new advisory released by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The state must ensure prompt and free initiation of the treatment process without demanding advance payment, irrespective of paying capacity, the advisory said, further prohibiting the public release of patient details.
The NHRC advisory on Right to Health in the Covid-19 context was released on September 28. It has been sent to all states and Union territories.
Jaideep Govind, secretary general, NHRC, said in the advisory that Covid-19 patients who approach public health facilities should be treated free-of-cost. The advisory states: Covid-19 tests should be free-of-cost at government laboratories or hospitals and no person should be denied treatment in a public or private hospital due to “lack of a negative Covid-19 test result”.
The NHRC had constituted a committee of experts to assess the impact of the pandemic on realisation of rights of people, especially marginalised and vulnerable groups. Dr Abhay Shukla, one of the members of the committee, said the NHRC has “strongly advised” that charters of patients’ rights be prominently displayed in hospitals and on the website of each state’s health department.
“All patients have the right to information, including daily updates about investigations, treatment and possible complications. This information with the standard patient guidance protocol for Covid-19 should be shared with patients and caregivers in a language that is understandable to them,” Shukla told The Indian Express.
He added that mental health assistance and counselling should be provided to Covid-19 patients before and after testing.
The advisory has stressed on transparency of rates with an itemised bill to be given to every patient, including cost of medicines, professional fees, PPE and others. The advisory said Covid-19 test reports should be received within 24 hours of the sample being submitted to the laboratory.
It has called for maintaining human dignity of each patient with no stigmatising or public labelling of Covid-19 patients. Healthcare for differently abled people, elderly persons, LGBTQI, sex workers and other vulnerable groups should be prioritised, the advisory said.
According to the advisory, participants in clinical trials and experiments should be informed that they can withdraw at any stage. Each quarantine centre, dedicated Covid-19 hospital, Covid care centre and Covid care health centre should have a grievance redressal person to register concerns and complaints, it added. The advisory has called for a state-level publicly available database of all complaints with details of pending or resolved complaints.
It has also sought timely payment of salaries to healthcare workers and strict legal action against those who publicly stigmatise or commit violence against health workers providing care to Covid-19 patients.
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