Assam is likely to take credit for being the first State in India to make it mandatory for all hospitals, including private hospitals and nursing homes, to provide free treatment, at least for the first 24 hours, to emergency patients.
The State Assembly unanimously passed The Assam Public Health Bill, 2010 enforceable from January 2011. The statute makes it mandatory for all hospitals and nursing homes, government and private, to maintain appropriate treatment protocol for the first 24 hours to an emergency patient. Patients who cannot afford treatment at private hospitals or nursing homes may be shifted to government hospitals after 24 hours.
The proposed law guarantees people the right to appropriate medicines and the right to effective measures of prevention, treatment and control of epidemic and endemic diseases. It also empowers the State health department to fix accountability and responsibility in cases of recurring outbreaks of viral, communicable and waterborne diseases. Not just that, the law makes it mandatory for all new development projects in the State to pass a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) test.
The proposed law has recognized the right to healthcare without a patient having to look for a government hospital in case of an emergency just because of financial constraints.
Generally, the standard of care in emergency cases in modern day medicare envisages, amongst other features, three primary obligations:
- Screening the patient;
- Stabilizing the patient's condition; and
- Discharging, or transferring, the patient for better treatment.
More steps are required to be taken by the appropriate Governments to ensure that at least emergency first aid is given to patients, in particularly the accident victims. There should also be fully equipped ambulances parked at strategic places that can be contacted by helpless persons needing emergency help. The initial first aid sometimes determines the fate of an injured person.
The number of beds in the hospitals should be increased to meet the growing needs of the population. The emergency units at every hospital should be fully equipped to manage all the emergency cases. There should be adequate number of medical officers round the clock in these units.
In India more than 3 lakh people face a medical emergency each day, 2.4 million deaths account for on grounds of health diseases, suicides, accidents, thefts, murders, sexual assaults. 80% of deaths in hospitals happen in the first hour of admission, so the gravity of emergency care cannot be ignored.
The National Health Bill, 2009 is a stepping stone towards a formal legislation on public health, and it is contemplated that it shall cover all the important aspects involved.