Offer free COVID-19 treatment to all: NHRC

In guidelines, it says all healthcare workers and ASHA workers should be paid their salaries on time

Nearly three months after forming a committee to assess the impact of COVID-19 on rights, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) this week issued an advisory that includes providing free treatment to all COVID-19 patients, including healthcare workers, and paying ASHA workers on time for their contribution in the combating the disease.

On Monday, NHRC secretary general Jaideep Govind wrote to the Health Ministry and all the States and Union Territories asking the authorities to implement the recommendations in the “Human Rights Advisory on Right to Health in context of COVID-19” and to submit action-taken reports to the NHRC.

“There are repeated instances of patients facing problems in getting admission to designated COVID-19 facility, overcharging, denial of treatment, stigmatisation, discrimination, patients not being provided formal reports etc,” the NHRC guidelines said.

Also read | COVID-19 vaccine likely to be free for the poor

All COVID-19 patients should get free treatment at public and engaged facilities, while patients of non-COVID-19 related illnesses should continue to get essential healthcare. Testing at government facilities should be available free of cost and there should be a maximum rate set for private laboratories conducting COVID-19 tests, it said. Insurance companies should provide cashless cover for COVID-19 for all those who hold hospitalisation policies.

Patients should be provided information about their rights and treatment. Test results should be given in a “reasonable time, preferably within 24 hours of the sample” being collected, it noted.

Privacy protection

“Human dignity of every patient in all situations must be maintained,” the guidelines stated. Use of force to transport patients should not be used and patients’ privacy must be protected. There should not be any discrimination and a policy for COVID-19 detection and treatment of homeless people should be formulated, it stated.

The guidelines advised pre and post testing counselling for COVID-19 patients by mental health professionals. For healthcare workers, free treatment in case of infection and accommodation or transport should be provided after late-night shifts. All healthcare workers and ASHA workers should be paid their salaries on time by the government, it said.

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