Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma, in their report — Management of Covid-19 and related issues — raised concerns “regarding the selling of beds by private hospitals, black-marketing and overpricing of some medicines like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab that was effective in the treatment of the virus”.
The Committee opined that the threat of Covid-19 has highlighted huge disparity of infrastructure and services in public and private hospitals. “There has to be sufficient capacity of beds available both in public/government and private hospitals. After the onset of the pandemic, the largest share of the burden of extending comprehensive healthcare has been borne by government hospitals, as private institutes are either inaccessible or not affordable for everyone. Therefore, more allocation should be made for public hospitals to strengthen the public health infrastructure so that they can equip themselves appropriately to handle such pandemics in the future,” said the report.
The committee strongly recommended a need for a comprehensive public health Act, preferably at the national level with suitable legal provisions to support the government in keeping checks and controls over private hospitals. It is based on the understanding that there have been reports about private hospital selling hospital beds reserved for Covid patients. According to the committee, the Act should also keep a check on the black marketing of medicines and product standardisation.
The committee recommended, “People should be made aware through awareness campaigns regarding cheaper and effective repurposed medicines to prevent them from panicking and spending a huge amount of money on expensive drugs. Good quality and affordable medicines should be provided to everyone, especially at a cheaper/subsidised rate to the marginalised sections of the society especially at the time of pandemic like Covid-19.”
The committee also noted the issues concerning a lack of proper insurance coverage during the initial stages of the pandemic. “The private hospitals were charging exorbitantly high rates for the treatment of COVID patients who had to suffer a lot due to lack of any insurance coverage. There is a need to have regulatory oversight on all hospitals working in the country to prevent refusal to accept insurance claims. The committee added that the target should be to make Covid-19 treatment cashless for all people that are having insurance coverage,” the report said. The committee appreciated the efforts of IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) to create standard health insurance products and added that healthcare needs to be well prepared with well-defined medical protocols to handle any health contingencies in future.
The committee said, “The Patient's feedback regarding their treatment should be made essential in all the public and private hospitals to have an understanding of the issues faced by the hospitalised patients that will further help in the management of a pandemic.” The committee has submitted their report to Rajya Sabha Chairman Vankaiah Naidu.