Text of Adjournment Motion for Debate as tabled by NFP Member Hon Prem Singh to request Parliament to express concern at the unfair practice of levying different fees for medical reports by the Public Hospitals, sought by citizens for compensation claims and call on the Minister for Health and Medical Services to immediately review and standardise the fees — Please check against delivery.
This motion is about the fees and charges levied by Government Hospitals for medical reports. It has been stated many times by the Prime Minister, and rightly so, that all citizens should and would be treated as equals and there shall be no discrimination based on race, gender, religion or any other reason. The constitution also provides this guarantee.
But the Ministry of Health has been practising discrimination as far as their charges are concerned for medical reports. This is especially so in the case of persons seeking reports for compensation claims.
Madam Speaker, If a person who is injured in an accident consults a Solicitor to make a compensation claim and the request for a medical report goes through a Solicitor, the charge is $287.50.
Even if a person goes directly to the Hospital and says he or she wants a report to give to his/her Solicitors for a compensation claim he/she is told to pay $287.50. If a person goes to the hospital directly and requests for a report without mentioning a Solicitor, he is told to pay $115. If he/she says the medical report is for Social Welfare the charge is $57.50.
Madam Speaker, if the report is for insurance purposes the charge is $287.50. Why are not all the people treated equally? Why is a person who is injured in, say a motor vehicle accident, and who wants to make claim though a lawyer, asked to pay the exorbitant sum of $287.50?
And if the same person goes directly and says nothing about a lawyer he/she is asked to pay $115.00 which, incidentally, is also excessive. Apart from the charges being exorbitant this is blatant discrimination.
Madam Speaker, Almost all of these people are ordinary workers and after the accident they are out of work and have no earnings. At times they have families to support and need assistance from other family members to survive. How can they afford to pay $287.50 or even $115.00? They need the medical reports to make a claim for compensation whether the injuries are through a motor vehicle accident or an industrial accident in a factory or work site. Previously the charges for medical reports used to be $5.00. This was affordable by most people.
Madam Speaker, We believe that getting compensation after injuries is part of the rehabilitative process for the patient. He/she needs compensation for rehabilitation. If the injured person does not get compensation his/her family become a burden on the state and other family members. The Government should help rehabilitation by making medical reports readily available and affordable. This is not so presently. There is discrimination and the medical reports are beyond the financial reach of those who are most vulnerable and in need of it.
Madam Speaker, it must be pointed out that it is much easier for injured parties to deal through Solicitors to obtain their medical reports than going to the hospital themselves. The reports are not given immediately upon payment of the required fees. There are a lot of chasing up to be done and enquires have to be made on numerous occasions. This is a difficult and almost impossible task for ordinary people.
They do not have access to fax machines an internet and phone calls to the hospital are of no use. They cannot be expected to travel to major urban centres go our divisional hospitals on numerous occasions to make enquiries. It is much easier for Solicitors to do that. But if a person goes through a Solicitor he/she pays $287.50.
Madam Speaker, Section 25 of the 2013 Constitution – Access to Information states:
Every person has the right of access to –
(a) Information held by any public office and
(b) Information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any legal right.
The sum of $287.50 is so prohibitive for most people that it is tantamount to a breach of the above clause. An injured person has a right to claim compensation for his injuries. His/her human right is also violated when the charges for the medical report is beyond his/her reach.
If medicine can be supplied free for those who earn less than $20,000.00 per year why charge $287.50 for a medical report and that too to a person who is down and out, injured and most likely not earning anything? No caring Government can do this.
Madam Speaker, the Ministry must standardise the charges for medical reports and drastically reduce the charges for medical reports and make them affordable to all citizens most of whom are injured and in need of compensation providing a medical report for those seeking compensation is part of rehabilitation of the patient. In our view the charges should not be more than $20.00.