Under West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, the state will set up a regulatory commission to oversee private healthcare facilitiesWest Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The law to regulate private hospitals seeks to bring about more transparency in healthcare, but hospital owners say setting up a commission to determine charges is a retrograde step and will deter investments in private hospitals.
West Bengal passed a bill to regulate private hospitals in the state to the extent of determining what they could charge for clinical procedures and tests, indicating that those pursuing healthcare as a business to generate shareholder returns are unwelcome.
Under the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, the state will set up a regulatory commission to oversee private healthcare facilities, deciding for them what they can charge and deal with complaints from people receiving treatment.
The law seeks to bring about more transparency in healthcare, but hospital owners said setting up a commission to determine charges is a retrograde step and will deter future investments in private hospitals. The populist move will face legal challenges, they added.
“The (state) government is of the view that healthcare service is not a commercial proposition; it is a service… which should be delivered with humility and human touch,” the law proclaims as its stated objective. The law it replaces, which dates back to 2010, is not adequate, “particularly with regard to (regulating) charges and rates claimed by… clinical establishments”.
Charges levied by private hospitals should cover costs and generate only a “decent surplus”, the state government said.
“If the aim is to improve patient experience, why were government hospitals exempted,” asked the owner of a leading hospital in Kolkata, requesting anonymity. “We agree there should be a forum for patients to seek redress, but to have a regulatory commission akin to the one in the power sector is infeasible for hospitals.”
Private hospitals in West Bengal have two alternatives: to work around the new law, which will likely result in diminution in quality of service, or to challenge it legally.
“But who will bell the cat,” asked a lawyer, who advises several top hospitals in the city. “The bill seeks to impose a regime of price control, which can be challenged in court,” this person added, on condition of anonymity.