Are Private hospitals answerable to people under the RTI Act?
Whether private hospitals are covered under the RTI Act, and if so, the extent to which they are answerable, has been a matter of debate.
Case 1: The appellant’s father, Late Shri Kailash Prasad Singh was admitted to a private hospital on 3.11.2012 and subsequently died on 3.12.2012 during his hospitalization. The appellant claimed that the death summary of his father prepared by the team of Doctor led by Dr. Vivek Nangia of Fortis Hospital is insufficient, unsatisfactory, unsatisfactory, ambiguous, vague and does not have complete facts. Seeking complete Death Summary Report and disclosure of the real facts and circumstances leading to death of his father, the appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking information about the case. In this case of Shri Prabhat Kumar v. Directorate of Health Services GNCTD, Delhi in File No. CIC/SA/A/2014/000004, the CIC directed as below:-
“53. The Commission directs officerincharge of administration of the Fortis Hospital or any other responsible person having authority and knowledge about the case of the father of the appellant to furnish:
a. the certified copies of entire medical record including a note explaining the cause of death of the father of the appellant,
b. the certified copies of documents based on which the causes were ascertained,
c. the certified copies of bills and receipts of payments made by or for the father of the appellant within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order, free of cost to the appellant. ……
56. The Commission recommends the Government of India, states and Union Territories, besides the respondent authority in this case, to take necessary steps to enforce the right to information, i.e., forcing the private hospitals to give medical records of the patients on day to day basis, because this daily disclosure will prevent undesirable practices of altering records after damage caused to patient. Forcing the private hospitals to provide dailywise medical records will also act as a check on some hospitals from resorting to extortionist, inhuman and ruthless business of prescribing unnecessary diagnostic tests, unnecessary surgical operations, caesarean deliveries, unwarranted angioplasties, inserting stents, without need, or of substandard nature, or putting low quality stent while collecting price of high quality stent, and several such malpractices amounting to medical terrorism, etc. They should not be allowed to such malpractices with all impunity and get away without any legal consequences as if there is an absolute immunity. The Government, Medical Council of India and the health regulatory has to see that licence to practice medicine will not become license to kill and extort and come to the rescue of helpless patients.”
Subsequently, the Directorate of Health Services provided two sets of file containing certified copies of medical records. The officer of DHS also stated that she would give certified copies of medical records. The officer also stated that she would give copy of e mail sent by the hospital, maintaining the names and designation of Doctors who treated the father of the appellant. Copy of MC registration of three Doctors was also provided to the appellant.
Case 2: In another case, the appellant asked for the disclosure of action taken against private hospitals which breached the condition of serving EWS patients free of cost. Readers may refer to the case at: http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/disclosure-action-taken-against-private-hospitals#.VTBb5dyUe1U
Case 3:The Information Commissioner at the State Information Commission (SIC) of Andhra Pradesh Ms L. Tantiya Kumari gave similar view while attending an awareness programmes as the chief guest at the Srikakulam Press Club and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar auditorium. She said that all the private hospitals which have taken a benefit of a government sponsored insurance schemes would come under the purview of RTI Act. She said that such hospitals were supposed to appoint public information officer to deal with the applications filed under the Act. She also said that the private colleges benefitted with fee reimbursement scheme should reply to the RTI applications