Statutory body to regulate public healthcare in state

Statutory body to regulate public healthcare in state

The state is planning to establish a statutory body to regulate the functioning of the public health sector.

The move is timed for the rollout of the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat and the state’s Arogya Karnataka universal health coverage schemes, in which government hospitals will be the first point of contact for many patients.

Establishment of the Karnataka Health Council, as it is tentatively called, will be proposed either in the budget session next month or the winter session of the legislature later this year, additional chief secretary (health and family welfare) Ajay Seth told DH.  

“We are heading in that direction (of setting it up), but it first needs Cabinet approval,” Seth said. “It will be a statutory body whose reports will be tabled before the legislature, unlike annual reports institutions prepare that are hardly read by anybody,” he said, to underline that the work carried out by this body would be serious.

This is in response to demands that there has to be a mechanism to ensure government hospitals are accountable, which was not addressed in the recent amendment to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act.

The statutory body, Seth explained, will evaluate the functioning of government hospitals. “The health department wants to keep an arm’s distance from government hospitals, because we can’t really be the judge of our own cause,” he said. Private hospitals will also come under the scanner of this regulator.

“We already have the KPME Act to regulate the private sector. The statutory body will oversee the implementation of this law as far as private hospitals are concerned,” Seth said. The Council will be in a position to receive complaints on the implementation of the Act and probe them.

The body will be established on the lines of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission,  headed by a retired judge. “The Council will comprise of health professionals, but we are not ruling out representation of those from the judiciary,” Seth said.

Karnataka has 42 district hospitals, 146 taluk hospitals and 2,508 primary health centres. The Karnataka Government Medical Officers Association has opposed the idea of setting up a regulatory body. “What’s the need for it?” association representative Dr T A Veerabhadraiah said. “There’s already an established hierarchy to ensure accountability. Clearly, it is unnecessary.”