Sunday, May 9, 2021
Editorial

Ensure regulation

Activities and importance related to health and education run hand in glove. Health prepares for education, the latter tries to advance it. For care and cure of health, use of drugs, medicines and surgical equipments and events is a sine-qua-non with its trade and professionals, construed among noble ones. Although code of ethics relevant to any job, profession, trade or any realm of life is neither new nor has expired yet, it swaps positions occasionally in health and education. That is why charges billed for the two often assume importance especially in case of health to be maintained willy-nilly. During 2018 startling revelations came to fore regarding high margin of profits charged by some health service providers on drugs, diagnosis services, syringes & needles for instance. The margin of profits on drugs was noticed as high as 1192% in four hospitals in Delhi & NCR as disclosed by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) – the National Drug Pricing Regulator, from an analysis done by it after some unfortunate deaths took place in four private hospitals in Delhi & NCR. This was the state of affairs at the national capital where different types of surveillance mechanisms act for maintaining fair and preventing unfair practices. The need and activity being area, season and gender neutral, chances of such malpractices may be anywhere to fleece people under the guise of illusory bill boards of offering service and cure. An increasing network of health care facilities by various service providers in the shape of druggists, chemists, clinical laboratories, diagnostic/imaging centres and full-fledged hospitals including gynea and children though a welcome sign for rescuing human and animal lives, besides generating employment, is not insulated from the stink of disturbing trends as all humans are not humane in thought and approach. Different amounts of fee are being charged at different clinics, laboratories and hospitals for one and the same kind of service/test /treatment and diagnosis to the patients. The fee charts are not usually displayed conspicuously to enable the patients to exercise their choice of taking a considered decision to plan according to their pockets and preferences. Instead the rates/charges are often read from closed drawers/books and then sometimes negotiated a bit to ready the customers. MRPs recorded on the strips, packs and instruments of medical supplies are meant to cover all the incidental charges whatever from the place of manufacture to the remote retail outlets in the far flung areas of the country. But the MRP is used as fixed price by almost all retailers, save minute exceptions. The margin of higher profits and room for accommodation can be gauged from the fact that different pharmacies charges different rate for the same medicine even within a radius of one kilometers in the same city of Dimapur. For instance, a strip of 10 tablets of a particular medicine is charged, say Rs 100 in a medical shop/pharmacy, while the same strip of 10 tablets is charged Rs 85 after giving a discount of 15% even without asking for discount. The druggist who made the sale at the lower price with a difference of Rs 15 per strip too might not have sold these without profit. This is handful of a heap. The point is profit or profiteering is to be distinguished. While dealers deserve genuine profits, profiteering should attract matching punishment. Then there is menace of spurious drugs which damage our person and purse. The drugs administered to patients in government as well as non-government health institutions/ hospitals/centres are often heard to be ineffective besides causing side effect ailments to other parts/organs of patients taking toll of human health and wealth. The fear has developed to the level of opinion that most of the supplies in the state are spurious and substandard. Surely such unpleasant situation albeit not official but experienced at individual level deserves immediate attention by the government, strengthening the health services in outreach, communication, focus, research and development, doctor-patient ratio, infrastructure and above all medical ethics as falling ill or sick is a debit entry to ones income. The state government has to play its due role. Some time back the government had hinted its readiness to lay down and implement a regulatory mechanism for private health institutions to oversee their working, but sadly nothing has been heard further on it.

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