New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued an advisory with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic that prohibits any public release of patient details and calls for free medical care for healthcare professions who contract the disease in the line of duty.
The advisory — titled the Human Rights Advisory on Right to Health in the Context of Covid — has been sent to all states and union territories.
It is based on the recommendations made by a committee of experts constituted by the NHRC to assess the impact of the pandemic on the rights of people, especially the marginalised and vulnerable sections.
In a letter accompanying the advisory, NHRC secretary general Jaideep Govind has asked all states and union territories to implement the recommendations and submit an action-taken report.
The points laid down in the advisory include one that calls for patient information to be disseminated with discretion. This seeks to address instances where patient information has found its way into public spaces.
“Information regarding the patient may need to be communicated to health authorities in the interest of public health considerations, but besides this such information should not be revealed to others except the patient and designated caregivers,” reads the advisory.
The guidelines also weigh in on cases where staff of healthcare facilities have been charged by hospitals for Covid-19 treatment even though they contracted the infection while serving on the frontlines of the public health crisis.
“All healthcare workers including rehabilitation professionals who are exposed to Covid-19 virus may be given all possible medical care free of cost, considering it as an occupational health hazard, by the government or the private healthcare institution where the health worker is employed, as the case may be,” the advisory states. “This facility may be extended to their family also, if the health workers are the source of infection.”
Timeline for test report
The advisory also states that Covid-19 patients should get their test reports “preferably within 24 hours of the sample being submitted to the laboratory”.
Delay in test reports is seen as a major challenge to controlling Covid-19, since it may defer quarantine for an infected patient, increasing their chances of transmitting the virus.
The matter has been flagged by many state governments at different times during meetings with the central government.
The advisory also states that civic bodies and state/union territory governments may consider sharing Covid-19 test results online in a confidential manner, whereby patients can check their status through confidential test ID cards provided only to them.
It also warns against patients — suffering from Covid-19 or any other disease — being denied treatment.
“No patient should be denied emergency medical care for both Covid and non-Covid conditions. The state must ensure prompt and free initiation of the treatment process without demanding advance payment, provided to the patient irrespective of paying capacity,” the advisory adds. “For non-Covid patients approaching a dedicated COVID hospital, a system may be set up to ensure referral, transport and admission to the alternative local non-COVID facility, wherever required,” the advisory states.
Availability of drugs
It is the responsibility of the state/union territory government to make essential drugs and therapeutics for Covid-19 available at all public health institutions. They should ensure that the drugs are provided free of cost, on priority, to vulnerable sections that are covered by government health schemes for free care, the NHRC advisory says.
Additionally, it calls for regulation of rates at private hospitals.
“Government should ensure that the rates are regulated in private hospitals. New measures may be taken to widely publicise these rates along with available facilities and there must be no hidden costs,” it adds. “Adequate quality of care may be ensured for Covid-19 patients who are treated in private hospitals free of cost or at a regulated rate. Regular inspection by government teams must be ensured to check if they adhere to the regulated rates and quality standards,” reads the advisory.
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