What do you understand by the term Right to Health? What are the key features of the Rajasthan Government’s Right to Health Bill? What are the challenges associated with such rights?
The Right to Health Bill has been enacted by the Rajasthan Government, conferring upon every inhabitant of the state the privilege to access costless services at all public healthcare facilities.
The right to health is a fundamental human right recognized under international law. It is enshrined in various international and regional human rights instruments and reflects the principle that every person has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Key Features of the Right to Health Bill
The people of the State of Rajasthan are entitled to the right to obtain pertinent information regarding their health, including the nature and cause of their illness, proposed investigations, and care, expected treatment outcomes, possible complications, anticipated costs, etc.
Every person in the State shall have free OPD services, IPD services consultation, drugs, diagnostics, emergency transport, procedure, and emergency care as provided by all public health institutions according to their level of health care.
They shall have access to emergency treatment and care under any emergent circumstances, without prepayment of requisite fees or charges.
The term “Public health emergency” means an occurrence or imminent threat of illness or health conditions that are believed to be caused by any of the following:
- The appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin,
- A natural disaster,
- A chemical attack or accidental release,
- A nuclear attack or accident.
What is the Right to Health?
The right to health is a fundamental human right that guarantees the highest possible standard of physical, mental, and social well-being that every individual deserves. Here are some key points related to the right to health:
- The origin of the right to health dates back to 1946, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) was established to develop health-related policies as human rights.
- The right to health is an integral part of human dignity and is the responsibility of governments to uphold and enhance all individuals, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status.
- Part IV of the Constitution, under the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), guarantees social and economic justice to its citizens. Therefore, Part IV of the Constitution directly or indirectly relates to public policy in terms of health.
- The right to health includes access to healthcare services, medicines, and basic sanitation facilities without discrimination, as well as the right to information and participation in decision-making processes related to health policies and programs.
- The right to health is closely linked to other human rights, such as the right to food, housing, education, and a healthy environment, and it is essential for achieving sustainable development and reducing inequality.
- The right to health is not just an individual right but also a collective responsibility of the government, civil society, private sector, and international community to work together towards achieving universal health coverage and ensuring that no one is left behind.
The right to health is recognized in several international documents, including:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Article 25, states 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.”
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in Article 12, recognizes “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”
The right to health is also elaborated in regional human rights instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.
Efforts to realize the right to health involve a combination of legal, policy, and practical measures, including healthcare system reforms, public health initiatives, and efforts to address social determinants of health. International organizations, civil society, and governments work together to promote and protect this fundamental right.
Importance of Right to Health
The right to health implies that healthcare, goods, and services should be accessible to all without discrimination. This includes access to healthcare facilities, essential medicines, clean water, and adequate nutrition.
- The right to health is an essential human right, and it is the responsibility of the government to take steps to ensure that all people have access to healthcare services. This includes promoting health education, providing preventive healthcare measures, and ensuring access to curative healthcare services.
- Wide access to health services is crucial to ensure that everyone can access the services they need to maintain good health and well-being. This includes ensuring that healthcare services are available in all regions of the country and that healthcare facilities are equipped with necessary medical equipment and supplies.
- Quality healthcare services are also essential to ensure that people receive effective care that meets their needs and contributes to their overall well-being. This includes ensuring that healthcare providers are adequately trained and have the necessary skills and knowledge to provide high-quality care.
- Right-based healthcare services also aim to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure for health services by providing affordable and accessible care to all people, regardless of their ability to pay. This can help protect people from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets and reduce the risk of people getting pushed into poverty.
- By reducing the financial burden of healthcare costs, right-based healthcare services can help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access the care they need to maintain good health. This can contribute to improving health outcomes and reducing health inequalities among different groups of people.
Right to Health in India
Here are some key points related to the right to health in India:
- India is a signatory of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) by the United Nations, which grants the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services.
- Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees a fundamental right to life and personal liberty, and the right to health is inherent to a life with dignity.
- The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) in Articles 38, 39, 42, 43, and 47 put an obligation on the state to ensure the effective realization of the right to health for all its citizens.
- The Supreme Court of India has made significant judicial pronouncements related to the right to health. In the Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity case (1996), the court held that in a welfare state, the primary duty of the government is to secure the welfare of the people, and the government must provide adequate medical facilities for its people.
- In its landmark judgment in Parmanand Katara Vs Union of India (1989), the Supreme Court ruled that every doctor, whether at a government hospital or otherwise, has the professional obligation to extend their services with due expertise for protecting life.
- The right to health in India also includes access to clean water, sanitation, and a healthy environment, as well as the right to information and participation in decision-making processes related to health policies and programs.
- India has made significant progress in improving access to healthcare services and reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, but challenges remain in addressing inequalities in healthcare access and quality, particularly for marginalized communities.
Challenges in India
India’s healthcare system faces multiple challenges that hinder its ability to provide adequate healthcare services to its citizens. A few prominent challenges are:
- Even though there have been some recent improvements, India’s healthcare infrastructure continues to be insufficient, particularly in rural areas.
- The country has 1.4 beds per 1,000 people, 1 doctor per 1,445 people, and 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people, which is not enough to meet the growing demand for healthcare services.
- Over 75% of the healthcare infrastructure is concentrated in metro cities, where only 27% of the total population resides. This means that the rest of the population, which makes up 73%, lacks access to even basic medical facilities.
- India’s healthcare financing system is restricted, and there is minimal public spending on healthcare.
- This limits the government’s ability to invest in healthcare infrastructure and resources, which can lead to inadequate healthcare services for individuals.
- The Government of India spent 2.1% of its GDP on healthcare in FY23, which is much lower than the average health spending share of the GDP, which is around 5.2% of the Lower- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC).
Disease Burden Level
- In India, both communicable and non-communicable diseases pose a significant burden, including Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Diabetes, etc
- Addressing these diseases necessitates a substantial investment in healthcare infrastructure and resources.
- A report by Frontiers in Public Health found that over 33% of the Indian population still suffers from infectious diseases among the total ailing population.
- The per capita out-of-pocket (OOP) expense for infectious diseases is INR 7.28 for inpatient care and INR 29.38 for outpatient care.
India’s healthcare system is facing significant challenges in terms of inadequate healthcare infrastructure, high disease burden, gender disparities, etc. While there have been recent improvements in the healthcare sector, particularly in urban areas, rural areas, and poor households still lack basic medical facilities and access to healthcare. Addressing these issues requires significant investment in healthcare infrastructure and resources, as well as policies and programs to address gender disparities and increase public spending on healthcare.
Article Written By: Priti Raj