Healthcare Information Comes under RTI Act, MP Information Commissioner Asks All Clinics and Hospitals To Provide Info within 30 Days
Often, hospital authorities do not make healthcare documents of patients accessible to them; although it is mandatory under the medical council of India rules, besides under the Right to Information Act (RTI).
In fact, under the RTI Act, central information commissioner (CIC) Prof Shridhar Acharyulu, in a second appeal hearing in 2016, had ordered that “patients and their relatives are entitled to know the treatment details including names and qualifications/ experience of doctors.”
He further added that “As per the law, this information has to be given within 72 hours, under section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. This falls under the scope of the definition of information as per the RTI Act.”
Last week, RTI empowered a citizen with access to healthcare information in Madhya Pradesh, thanks to state information commissioner (SIC) Rahul Singh. In a landmark decision, SIC Singh has ordered that “All clinics and hospitals in Madhya Pradesh must come under the ambit of the RTI Act. Timely provision of registration and operational approval details of hospitals and clinics within 30 days of an RTI application is mandatory.”
Mr Singh’s decision has a reference to an RTI application. RTI applicant Sunita Tiwari from Jabalpur, who was seeking accountability for the death of her daughter, was denied crucial information regarding Star Hospital's registration. Despite repeated appeals, pertinent documents were withheld, prompting the information commission to order Rs5,000 compensation for Ms Tiwari due to the negligence of local health authorities.
Mr Singh stressed the urgency of tightening regulations surrounding healthcare facilities. He cited the example of a recent fire incident at a private hospital in Jabalpur as a poignant example of the risks posed by non-compliance. He observed in his order that “The responsibility lies with the health department to ensure adherence to established standards, with the public having a right to know the operational status of healthcare facilities.”
SIC Singh further stated in his order, “The commission is aware of the loss of life due to the severe fire incident in a private hospital in Jabalpur. In that case, the private hospital was operating by completely disregarding the rules and regulations. It is the responsibility of the health department to prevent the operation of illegally operated clinics and hospitals, but the negligence of the health department was also prominently evident in the Jabalpur fire incident.”
Mr Singh has also directed the principal secretary of Madhya Pradesh's public health and family welfare department to disseminate this order to all district chief medical and health officers across the state. This mandate compels the timely provision of hospital and clinic registration and operational approval information to RTI applicants within 30 days.
In his order, Mr Singh commented that such transparency by hospitals, “will act as a deterrent against the proliferation of unlawfully operated clinics and hospitals, posing a direct risk to public safety.” It may be noted that the Maharashtra government has recently begun a campaign to identify unregistered testing laboratories for healthcare.
Mr Acharyulu, in his 2016 decision, had also referred to several court orders about the transparency of hospitals, public or private. The RTI applicant’s son had died in Sri Gangaram Hospital due to alleged negligence by the hospital authorities. 
He wrote in his order that: “…it is clear that the patients and their relatives are entitled to know the treatment details including names and qualifications/ experience of doctors.
* As per the law, this information had to be given within 72 hours, under section 2 (f) of the RTI Act.
* This falls under the scope of the definition of information as per the RTI Act.  The lack of responsibility from the respondent authority reflects its utter disregard for the law.
Withholding such information under sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act is illegal as it does not conform to the provisions of the Act,” concluded Mr Singh.
Right to Information under medical council of India regulations
*The medical council of India has imposed an obligation on hospitals as per the  regulations notified on 11 March 2002 amended up to December 2010 to maintain the medical record and provide patient access to it.
  • These regulations were made in exercise of the powers confirmed under section 20A (read with section 33(m) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 (102 of 1956), by the medical council of India, with the previous approval of the Central government relating to the professional conduct, etiquette and ethics for registered medical practitioners, namely:
  • Maintenance of medical records:
  • 1.3.1. Every physician shall maintain the medical records pertaining to his/ her indoor patients for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the treatment in a standard proforma laid down by the medical council of India and attached as appendix 3. 
  • 1.3.2. If   any   request   is   made   for   medical   records   either   by   the patients/ authorised attendant or legal authorities involved, the same may be duly acknowledged and documents shall be issued within the period of 72 hours. 
  • 1.3.1 provides for information, among other things, pertaining to diagnosis, investigations advised with reports, diagnosis after investigation and advice.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)
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