Hyderabad: On 21 September, Dr.Akash (name changed) was attending to his patients when around 20 people walked into his hospital and started checking various things in Nagarkurnool. Akash recalls with shock how they even walked into the OP clinic where he was treating patients. In the middle of the inspection, the patients were asked to leave. "Initially I could not even figure out who these people were," says Akash.
The inspection team asked Akash for the certificates. As per rules, the clinics and other healthcare facilities are supposed to display their certificates on a display board in their establishments.
But Akash only had a softcopy of the certificates. The team went through them thoroughly. They were happy with everything else except for the renewal certificate of the hospital. The renewal was pending for the last 6 months. The inspection team instructed Akash to close the hospital immediately.
According to the rules, all private healthcare facilities are supposed to renew their license every five years.
According to the latest data from the Director of Public Health released on 29 September, out of 1,569 hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes inspected, around 81 private healthcare institutions were seized during inspections. Around 416 were issued notices and 68 were fined.
Clinical Establishments (Registrations and Regulation) Rules, 2011, allows authorities to inspect private health care facilities' premises. It empowers the health department to grant, renew, suspend, and cancel hospital registration, investigate violations of complaints, and enforce compliance with the Act's provisions and rules, according to officials.
The highest number of hospitals have been inspected in Karimnagar (210), followed by Rangareddy (204), Bhadradri Kothagudem (132), and Hyderabad (130). Telangana Health Department has inspected hospitals in almost all districts except Nalgonda, Medak, and Jayshekar Bhulapally, which are also expected soon.
Akash admits that it is his mistake. But he says that he should have been given notice and time to finish the renewal processes. "As a hospital that has been running for the last 45 years, and owned by another qualified doctor (not me), we should have been given more time to follow up," says Akash.
Akash, who is a little emotional, explains how patients are more close to their doctors, especially in rural areas. "Seeing their go-to hospital shut, the villagers are now wondering what happened. Also, in rural areas, the patients are reluctant to go to other hospitals in such situations. They just return home with their ailments," explains Akash.
On 27 September, Healthcare Reforms Doctors Association (HRDA) gave a representation to S.A.M Rizvi, Secretary to the Health Department, urging him not to harass qualified doctors.
"We came to know that a few clinics by qualified doctors were seized by the DMHO in Nagarkurnool. We urge you not to harass qualified doctors, and not to impose fines or seize their establishment. We request you to give reasonable time for registrations and renewals through the online portal and rectification of deficits if any by issuing notices," read the HRDA's representation.
HRDA also demands shutting down healthcare centers run by unprofessional doctors and quacks. "The actual intention of this inspection is to crack down on the establishments run by quacks. So such hospitals and clinics should be eradicated and shut down. Don't seize the ones run by qualified doctors. Issue notices and give them enough time to apply," says Dr. Mahesh, President of HRDA.
Dr. Shivasagari, a member of the HRDA said that inspection is only carried out only for qualified doctors who are trying their best to help the people rather than on the quacks.
Mahesh also says that such inspections demotivate young, qualified doctors to move into rural areas to set up their healthcare facilities.
What happened to GO 47, GO 48
Even after two years, the GO 47 AND GO 48 are not been implemented
Issued in 2020, the GO 47 and GO 48, deals with the introduction of an online system of registration and renewal for all facilities under the Telangana Allopathic Private Medical Care Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2002.
The GO 47 and GO 48 provided two websites for registrations and renewals- www.tamce.telangana.gov.in/ and www.pcpndt.telangana.gov.in (especially for clinics, scanning centers, etc.). Both websites are still non-functional.
HRDA, in its letter to the Health Secretary, also sought to implement mandatory online submission of applications for registrations and renewals.
"It has been 2 years since GOs were issued, but to date, these were not implemented and the websites mentioned were non-functional. Still offline applications are accepted in DMHO offices and there is a lot of delay, corruption is happening for issuing registration and renewal permission for establishing healthcare facilities," it said.
Explaining the practical problems of manual registration, Dr. Shivasagari says, "I stay at Nagole. For me to roam around for all the certificates amidst my practice hours is very difficult. If it is online, we just need to scan and upload the certificates."
Speaking to NewsMeter, Telangana Director of Public Health G Srinivasa Rao denied claims of not providing enough time to the doctors to complete registration and renewal processes before shutting down.
"All the establishments registered under the Allopathic Private Medical Care Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act run by qualified doctors are given two weeks to fix their issues lapses if any. Then only any action is initiated against them. But if they have not registered under the Allopathy Act, then they are illegal and such establishments have been seized," said Rao.
On delay in implementation of GO 47 and GO 48, Rao said, "We are studying the mechanism of other states which are using online registrations and renewal systems. Presently, we are in the process of developing software. Mostly, the online system will be launched after Dussehra."