In a special drive initiated by the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) health department, its officials booked 81 city hospitals under the Bombay Nursing Home Act for operating without registration or licences. It has been almost three months since the drive commenced in July.
Owners of these hospitals were booked for flouting basic infrastructural norms mentioned in the Development Control (DC) Rules, 1987. Officials said this lack of adherence to the norms prevented the owners from registering or seeking licences from the health department.
PMC medical officer of health S T Pardeshi said, “We initiated the drive after a pregnant woman died during treatment at Raj Maternity Home. Our investigation revealed that 81 hospitals, including the maternity home, lacked registration. Hence, after making a panchnama of the medical facilities, we registered cases under the act.”
Commenting on the infrastructural requirements for a medical facility to seek PMC’s approval, Additional City Engineer Vivek Kharwadkar said that as per the DC Rules, every hospital should have at least two staircases for emergency exit.
The other major requirement is that the approach road for a hospital or a nursing home should be at least 15 metres or 12 metres wide, respectively.
“However, most of the hospitals that were booked have flouted these basic infrastructural norms,” Kharwadkar said.
Surprisingly, a section of the PMC corporators expressed displeasure with the drive initiated by the health department and demanded it be stalled at once. They said the civic body must take a sympathetic approach and think of the future of doctors who work at these hospitals, since action against the facility might ruin their career.
Corporator Avinash Bagwe said, “If the PMC wants to initiate action, the law should be equal for big hospitals as well. The Ruby Hall Clinic in Wanowaire has flouted rules while constructing the hospital building. But still the PMC hasn’t taken any action against its management.”
Seconding Bagwe’s opinion that the PMC has been biased in targeting small and medium-sized hospitals, Corporator Kishor Shinde accused the civic body of colluding with reputed hospitals to put smaller medical facilities out of business.
“The PMC succumbed to the pressure from big hospitals and is now targeting only smaller hospitals. Though the Sahyadri Hospital has an illegal shed on its terrace, the civic body hasn’t taken any action against it till date. What about hospitals like KEM, Dinanath Mangeshkar and Poona Hospitals that don’t have adequate parking space and other facilities? Will the PMC ever take action against them?,” Shinde said.
Refuting the allegations levelled by the corporators about the PMC favouring big hospitals, Pardeshi said the civic body had already collected fines worth Rs 88 lakh from the management of Ruby Hall Clinic for flouting infrastructural norms.
Leader of the PMC house Subhash Jagtap even suggested that apart from stalling the drive with immediate effect, the PMC should appoint a committee to amend the DC Rules. Meanwhile, Corporator Medha Kulkarni and Sanjay Balgude supported the drive and appealed to the PMC to continue without succumbing to any kind of pressure from the corporators or the medical unions.
Shooting down Jagtap’s proposal of amending DC Rules, Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Pathak said rules could not be changed overnight and the ongoing drive was the need of the hour. “If it is mandatory for all the hospitals to follow DC Rules, then those flouting them must face action.
Tomorrow, if any untoward incident happens in any of the hospitals then you (corporators) will blame the administration. Hence the house just cannot issue directives, which are not supported by the law. A wide approach road and an NOC from fire brigade, among others, are some of the basic norms that every hospital must fulfil. There is no scope for any kind of concession,” Pathak said.
The other side
Dr Nitin Bhagli, president of Nursing Home and Clinic Association of Pune, said, “The PMC is portraying that all doctors are criminals. One should understand that doctors are qualified professionals. It is only that the premises are not registered. Without considering genuine problems of the doctors, the PMC has been acting against them.
The civic body doesn’t have a consistent policy, and now suddenly its is penalising doctors for flouting DC Rules.” Maya Tulpule, president of Indian Medical Association (Pune), said, “I know of cases where the PMC has issued NOC for the first floor but not for the second floor of the same hospital.
A similar situation prevails while issuing NOC for fire safety. With hospitals that are 15-20 years old, how can the PMC suddenly penalise them for flouting norms? Moreover, considering the real estate scenario, it is almost impossible for any doctor to add a staircase to abide by the norms.”