Adya Singh would have been a little over eight years today. Like school kids her age, she would have been preparing for her mid-year exams. The indulgent parents might even have promised Adya and her twin sister some post-exam treats.
The little joys of life, however, are not for everyone. And certainly not for Adya's father, Jayant Singh, who recently addressed a press conference on healthcare corruption, issues that came to light after his daughter's death last year, on September 14.
Adya died of dengue at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, exactly one year ago. The case made headlines after a social media post about the child's death, revealing that the parents were charged Rs 16 lakh for treatment that lasted 14 days.
In December, a report by the Haryana government found the hospital guilty of overcharging, and the licenses for its blood bank and pharmacy were suspended.
Despite that, a year later, Jayant says he has not made much headway in the case. “The police have not filed any chargesheet in the case yet [he filed an FIR in December]. I have submitted multiple letters to the commissioner, DCP, ACP and IO regarding the chargesheet. Each time, I get the same response: “We will do it in a day or two”. The Medical Council of India does not agree with the state government's report on the unethical practices followed by the hospital. And, in the writ petition I filed in the Supreme Court in March on the issue of overcharging and medical malpractice by private hospitals, two of the seven [defendants] have not even appointed a lawyer. You are journalists, you tell me. Where should I go to get justice,” said Jayant, his voice choked with emotion.
Frustrated with the “corrupt system”, Jayant told reporters that he was sending a letter to all members of the parliament, demanding reforms in the healthcare sector, particularly with respect to setting up a separate body to deal with issues of medical negligence, and laws to regulate corporate hospitals.
In February this year, a study by National Pharmaceutical Price Authority (NPPA) revealed—after an analysis of patient bills from four prominent private hospitals—that hospitals make profits to the tune of 1737 per cent on drugs, consumables, medical devices and diagnostics.
“The Central government ought to enforce the Clinical Establishments Act (Registration and Regulation Act, 2010) to regulate private hospitals. However, the Act does not cover the important issue of price regulation. The kind of profiteering mechanisms that corporate hospital chains indulge in is dangerous, and need to be regulated,” said Indranil Mukhopadhyay, associate professor at Jindal School of Government and Public Policy. Mukhopadhyay, also an activist with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said that in the last decade, the private sector had organised itself into hospital chains, and large MNCs and Indian chains had taken over smaller nursing homes. “Investments are flowing from the financial sector, angel investments and other forms of hot money flow. Thus, there is always higher pressure for profit, and the danger of oligopolisation is also looming,” he said. Mukhopadhyay also pointed to the fact that the Centre's Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme would lead to private hospitals cross-subsidising healthcare for the poor by overcharging the middle class who have the capacity to pay.
Rajiv Nath, President, AISNMA (All India Syringes & Needle Manufacturers Association), said that manufacturers were the “guilty party” as they printed higher MRP for medical devices. “Many times, we try to induce hospitals to use our brands with higher trade margins. This pratice has become widespread, where hospitals ask manufacturers to hike MRP, and manufacturers agree to sell their products,” he said. Nath said that the NPPA should put a price cap on the trade margins to curb this menace.