New Delhi: Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Thursday said a strong regulatory system is needed to check widespread corruption in the Indian healthcare sector where 25 per cent of the money spent on health is lost due to fraud.
“What you need really is a profound regulatory system. Regulation is itself something that can go wrong but if we have a good clear regulatory system it will help,” he said at the launch of book “Healers or Predators? Healthcare Corruption in India”.
Khurshid said private hospitals who get land from the government are obliged to provide 30 per cent of their beds to the poor for free but these obligations are hardly met. Patients with no real ailment and hence no expenditure are admitted to account for the 30 per cent.
The former Union Law Minister also said even the judges are not familiar with what constitutes a medical malpractice.
“We could have a death because of cardiac attack as the patient was put through tests that were not advisable and all that the hospital says is pay and we will release the body. How many cases have you heard where sanctions have been imposed on such malpractice?”
The book, which highlights corruption in India’s healthcare and medical system, is a compilation of various reports written by medical doctors on the various crises plaguing the sector and edited by Samiran Nundy, Keshav Desiraju and Sanjay Nagral.
BMJ Group Non-executive Director David Berger, who first highlighted deep-rooted but widely accepted corruption in Indian healthcare, said he was struck by the lack of trust between doctors and patients that destroys the healing relationship.
BMJ, a subsidiary of the British Medical Association, is a provider of journals, clinical decision support, events and medical education.
“The solutions are upstream, not downstream. Ranting about individual doctors being corrupt is no use. As a start, the Medical Council of India (MCI) needs to be reformed or replaced by an effective system of professional regulation where doctors are held to account,” Berger said.
Gastrointestinal surgeon and writer Nundy said there is wide asymmetry of information — doctors know everything and the patients know nothing. Patients look at doctors as god or near god and it is terrible to betray that trust, he said.
He said the Indian health system is the second most corrupt sector after police, as per a report by Transparency International. As part of solution, the country needs to first accept the National Medical Commission Bill, he said.
Other panelists at the book launch expressed deep concern over the Modi government’s flagship healthcare protection scheme, popularly called Modicare, because of the lack of basic regulation of the private sector, which accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s hospitals. The government will be heavily dependent on the private sector for the success of Ayushman Bharat.
However, NITI Ayog Member Health Vinod Paul, who believes self-regulation is essential, believes in the power of technology and analytics to raise a red flag at the possible points of corruption, and then “match it with a deterrent in terms of penalties and prosecution”.
“I think in a transparent, information technology driven system using analytics and artificial intelligence gives us an additional, very powerful tool which the developed nations have used to avert cases of corruption,” he said.