*West Bengal passes stringent bill against medical negligence in private hospitals*

Kolkata: The West Bengal Assembly on Thursday passed a bill to regulate functioning of private health facilities, providing for up to three-year jail terms and trials under the IPC for offenders and fines up to Rs 50 lakh in case of death of patients due to medical negligence. The West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017l, tabled by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee, was passed by voice vote, with the government rejecting the opposition demand that it be sent to the standing committee for scrutiny. The government also turned down amendments moved by opposition members. The legislation, aimed at bringing transparency, ending harassment of patients and checking medical negligence in private hospitals and nursing homes, also brings clinics, dispensaries and polyclinics under its ambit. The bill makes it mandatory for private hospitals to pay compensations in case of medical negligence. Hospitals violating the new law will be liable to pay fine of Rs 10 lakh or more. "If there is medical negligence then compensation will be given by the establishment. For minor damages, Rs 3 lakh, for big damages, Rs 5 lakh and in case of death, minimum Rs. 10 lakh. However, the compensation amount will not be more than Rs 50 lakh. This compensation will be given within six months," said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while addressing the House on the bill. The bill has the provision to set up a 13 member West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission to monitor activities of private hospitals. The high-powered commission, to be headed by a sitting or former judge and having the status of a civil court, is empowered to summon both parties in case of a dispute and examine the case before passing an order. The penal measures range between compensation and scrapping the licence of the physician/hospital. The commission may also put the offender behind bars up to three years. It can also order trying the offender under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions if it deems fit. Banerjee also said hospitals will not be allowed to order unnecessary tests. "Acid attack and rape victims and emergency patients must be given proper and prompt treatment. Hospitals will not be allowed to charge more than the designated amount specified in package for treatment. If there is additional cost then, they must provide an estimate for the additional cost. That estimate will not go beyond a certain limit and that limit will be decided by the Commission," she said. Whether registered or not registered, private medical set-ups will be brought under the purview of the new law, she said. "Dead bodies will not be held up. Hospitals will have to set up public grievances cell. FD certificate or PAN cards will not be taken up for submission by hospitals. "Help desks must be set up to assist families of patients regarding any information about the bill or treatment. E-prescription systems have to be put in place. While discharging patients, proper documents will have to be given to the patient," she said. Hospitals with more than 100 beds must start fair price medicine shops. "If a hospital violates the new law, then a fine of Rs 10 lakh or more will be slapped," she said. Hospitals are mandated to declare bed charges, ICU charges and package costs that can't be altered

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