West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday warned private hospitals against over-charging patients and negligence in treatment as she announced setting up of a regulatory commission to monitor their functioning. “We have decided to set up a West Bengal Health Regulatory Commission which will monitor the billing and performance of the private hospitals and nursing homes,” she said at a meeting with representatives of top private hospitals and nursing homes at New Delhi.

A bill in this regard would be brought in the Assembly on March 3 in the coming session, she said.

The Health Regulatory Commission will be a 10-member body comprising a former chief justice, health experts, principal secretary of the Health Department, representatives of hospitals and patients, who are the consumers, Banerjee said.

The regulatory commission will submit its report to the chief minister every month.

“Hospitals must serve with smile. Try to treat patients with love, calculate money later. Your primary responsibility will be to serve them. You must have help desks. There must be a grievance cell in every hospitals to talk to families who have lost their patients there,” she said.

She said that West Bengal should be a model for other states in health care.

The meeting was called by Banerjee, who is also the Health Minister, after many complaints poured in at the health department from different sections, including top leaders and MLAs, alleging that private hospitals and nursing homes were charging patients excessively and negligence in treatment.

In the meeting, Banerjee pulled up representatives of top private medical facilities and held them responsible for charging patients exorbitantly, negligence in treatment, keeping patients in ICUs and on ventilators for long periods without justification and not releasing dead bodies if the bills were not settled.

The state was already planning to amend the West Bengal Clinical Act, the Chief Minister said, adding it should be made “strong” and the amendment would be brought up on March 3 in the Assembly.

“Hospitals here are charging exorbitantly. Why will that happen? Treatment of patients is not a business. It cannot even try to derive full profit from it. You have to look at it from a humanitarian ground,” she observed. Banerjee said that she was going through a report of a survey conducted by the Assembly on registered medical facilities in the state, out of which 370 were from the city.

“The survey was conducted on 942 nursing homes and 70 of them were served show-cause notices. Licences of 33 were cancelled. We have received complaints of negligence by the private hospitals and they were established,” she said.

Emphasising that the health sector was there not to make profit, but to serve the people, Banerjee suggested to the hospital representatives to change their attitude regarding treatment of patients.

Bringing in transparency in the billing system and initiating a e-record and e-prescription for patients by private hospitals and nursing homes was a must and they should not refuse treatment to patients arriving in emergency units.

“Dead bodies will not be held back because bills are not settled. A patient will be put on ventilation following the protocol and hospitals must start keeping e-records of a patient,” Banerjee said.

She also warned that child trafficking rackets would be finished and not allow kidney-sale rackets to thrive in the state.

“Hospitals must follow the Organ Transplant Act. I am not going to allow any child trafficking racket or kidney-sale racket operate from here,” she said.

She advised private hospitals and nursing homes to set up fair price medical stores as well as diagnostic centres to cater to people with poor economic background.

The chief minister disapproved of the tendency to destroy public and private property during riots, unrest or violent political movements and referred the West Bengal Maintenance of Public order (amendment) Bill 2017 to deal with it.

She also said that people indulging in vandalism during riots or agitations would have to compensate for the damage to property.

The new law stipulates that persons committing arson, loot and damage to property will be liable for punishment and payment of compensation.

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