The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in its nationwide drive against privately operating hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres is learnt to have meanwhile shut down more than 1,100 such health facilities and penalised 450 others on charge of various irregularities. However, the main objective of the drive, as informed by the top health authority, is to regularise all such private health facilities through licensing. However, the action being taken by the health authority against these illegally-run private entities in the health sector is long awaited. Considering the prevailing anarchy in such a sensitive sector like health, this kind of government measure needs to be more serious, frequent and systematic.
While having government registration is the precondition for any private organisation to run, it is more so when it comes to the case of a health service provider. For what is at stake here is the health service-seeker's wellbeing. Unfortunately, a large number of the country's private health and diagnostic clinics have been found to be operating without fulfilling this most basic condition. One may recall at this point similar such drives conducted before and during the pandemic (in 2018 and 2020) when over a hundred illegal medical facilities were shut down. As reported till Monday, the number of such non-compliant facilities so far sealed off is many times more than that of the previous two drives. The reason may be that the drive being conducted at the moment is wider on scale as it is taking place in all 64 districts of the country and that the officials involved are better informed than before. Even so, given the actual number of such private medical facilities across the country, which according to the DGHS was around 20,000 till November 2020, the task is undoubtedly challenging. Of them, it is said that about 55 per cent had their licences renewed during the previous drives, while 30 per cent were under inspection. The rest 15 per cent, on the other hand, did not even care to apply for a government licence to operate.
But seeing that such health clinics and diagnostics are mushrooming across the land, one wonders, how many more such unlicensed entities might have joined the old ones during the last two years! Hopefully, those spearheading the current drive are aware of all such eventualities and have the necessary manpower and other preparations to bring all such non-compliant health service providers under government control. Despite such occasional government drives against unregistered clinics, there are also reports that many of such illegal facilities resumed their operation soon after the health authorities ended their operation.
This clearly demonstrates a lapse on the part of the local health administration. What is important at this point is to adequately equip and empower the local civil surgeons and other health officials so they can monitor the activities in the health sector at the local level all the year round. Side by side, the health department would also do well to conduct surveys to develop a comprehensive database on the private health and diagnostic facilities operational in the country and update it from time to time. Most importantly, to make a real contribution to the cause of public health, putting a stricter and more rigorous disciplinary regime in place in the sector is the issue of the hour. It is believed, the health authorities have the necessary will to make that possible.