A Delhi-based lawyer has approached the Supreme Court to nationalise all healthcare facilities, institutes, companies and entities related to the health care sector in India till thepandemic COVID-19 is contained, legal news website BarandBench.com has reported.
The plea has also made an alternate prayer so that a direction is issued for ensuring that tests, procedures and treatments in relation to the COVID-19 disease conducted by all health-care facilities, institutes, companies and entities related to health care sector in India are made free of cost for all citizens of India till the pandemic subsides.
The genesis of the plea by advocate Amit Dwivedi lies in the difference in the cost of treatment incurred at a government and a private hospital, and how private hospitals attract more patients compared to their government counterparts.
“As per the 2019 WHO report tilled as 'Global Spending on Health: A World in Transition', it has been found that the average per capita expenditure on Primary Health Care (hereinafter, 'PHC') in low-income countries is 41 $ (USA Dollar) whereas in India its 27 $ which is as much as 1/3 rd less than the average per capita expenditure on PHC for the low income countries.
However, in the same time private health sector has seen tremendous growth at all stages of the health care and today India attracts a large number of medical tourists, in the year 2018 5,00,000 medical visa were issued by India, and the medical tourism industry is estimated to grow at the rate of 200% annually and was estimated to touch $ 9 Billion mark in 2020,” reads the petition, as per the report published by BarandBench.com.
The petitioner has also stated that reports indicating India’s unpreparedness to deal with the crisis citing ill-equipped hospitals and health care facilities were not correct, as in the last two to three decades itself, “India has emerged as a hub of medical tourism and today India accounts for 18% of the global market share of it.”
Elaborating on how Indian private medical infrastructure was responsible for attracting foreign nationals seeking treatment and how ever since the lockdown was imposed, all of these facilities were lying underutilised, the plea makes a case that “Indian private health care infrastructure which has capacity of catering to almost a million people is lying vacant and unutilised in the wake of ban imposed by the Indian government on arrival of foreign nationals in India.”
The plea justifies the prayer of having all health facilities nationalized or offered free of cost during the COVID-19 pandemic as India has been following global models to battle the outbreak of this pandemic, including imposing a nationwide lockdown to adapt to social distancing measures, and since foreign countries too have nationalized their health sectors.
“Nationalisation of the health care has been happening in many countries of the world to contain this pandemic including but not limited to Spain. Once nationalisation of the health care facilities and related institutions happen, then the struggle against COVID-19 would become effective,” reads the plea.
Dwivedi states that bringing such medical facilities within the reach of a common man would be important as Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the Right to life, Article 47 stipulates improvement of public health among the primary duties of the state, followed by Article 38 which requires the state to eliminate inequality in status, facilities and opportunities.
The plea also relies on Article 25 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to state that everyone “has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”