• April 21, 2024

Tobacco hospitals opposed

 Tobacco hospitals opposed

A recent move by the Karnataka health and family welfare department exploring the possibility of its entering a partnership with a tobacco company to build speciality government hospitals has sparked opposition among public health activists, according to a story in The Times of India.

In an e-mail dated April 18, Shalini Rajneesh, the principal secretary of the department, wrote to Anil Rajput, senior vice president, corporate affairs, at ITC, outlining the government of Karnataka’s plan to build five ‘super speciality hospitals’ and the opportunity for private companies to partner the government in this initiative.

‘As discussed, we are planning to set up five super speciality hospitals in five districts of Karnataka,’ the e-mail was reported to have said.

‘We plan to build the hospital and invite PPP partners to come with doctors and equipment to run the hospital.

‘The government will pay for the patients as per package costs pre-decided with a group of doctors both from the government and the private sector…

‘May I request you to put up this proposal before the ITC board, as early as possible?’

Public health activists have termed the move a clear case of a conflict of interests.

In opposing the initiative, one unnamed activist was said to have quoted Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Meanwhile, anti-corruption activist Ravi Krishna Reddy said such partnerships allowed the tobacco industry to make inroads into the health sector and influence government decisions.

“The Karnataka government itself, recognizing WHO guidelines, issued a circular in the past that government and elected officers shall not participate in tobacco industry related events,” he said.

“The recent move by the Karnataka health department to partner a tobacco firm now is a breach of public trust and a case of conflict of interest – as the tobacco firm gains close access to decision making authorities dealing with tobacco control.”

Asked about the move, Rajneesh said no decision had been taken by the government to partner with ITC to build government hospitals.

“Following a cabinet decision to build five super speciality hospitals in five districts, we are exploring various financial models to implement the project, and PPP is one of them,” she said.