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Law soon to regulate clinical establishments

Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi , Aug. 15

IF you are wondering whether your neighbourhood hospital or diagnostic centre is offering quality service, here is some good news. The Health Ministry is planning to come up with a legislation that will certify and set standards for clinical establishments.

Senior officials in the Ministry said, "A new Bill called the Clinical Establishment Regulations Act is in the offing. We are in the process of finalising the draft legislation." The Bill will have provisions for registration of hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres. It will ensure standardisation of procedures and also push for accreditation of healthcare centres. A certifying authority could also be set up under the new law. The official was not willing to give a time frame by when the law would be enacted.

The Health Minister, Dr A. Ramadoss has also made it clear that the accreditation and standardisation of such institutions is top of the agenda. "Unless there is uniformity in standards and a comparable price structure among healthcare centres offering similar services, neither will health tourism nor insurance take off. Hence, the need for a legislation," said the Ministry officials.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of Indian Industry's (CII) National Committee on Healthcare, in its last meeting, has also said that hospital accreditation should very quickly become a reality. India has the potential to attract one million tourists per annum, which could contribute as much as $5 billion to the economy, said the chamber.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr Harpal Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Fortis Healthcare Ltd said, "The industry will work towards setting up an accreditation standard. Currently, the cost of clinical procedures varies from hospital to hospital. We are looking at setting price bands for various procedures. We will first work towards readying a draft standard and then approach the Government to give it a statutory status."

However, healthcare industry analysts said that hospitals are not willing to open up their books for scrutiny by external agencies. "There is a reluctance among hospitals to show their financial accounts or even permit hospital visits. Unless they do so, it will be difficult to rate these institutions," said analysts.

But officials in the hospitals business said that this mindset is changing. "We have opened our books to even foreign investors. The Singapore-based Temasek Capital (Private) Ltd has recently agreed to pick up 5 per cent stake at Rs 246 per share in Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd," said Ms Suneeta Reddy, Director, Finance, Apollo Hospitals Group.

Mr Singh further added that special incentives should be made available to hospitals going in for a credit rating. "Insurance companies, for one, can insist on customers going to accredited hospitals for treatment. Other economic incentives should also be given to such hospitals," he added.

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