New Delhi: The Bombay High Court has ordered state authorities to enquire into the allegations made against a public charitable hospital in a petition, claiming that it was overcharging for Covid-19 treatment and was not giving the benefit granted under the economically weaker section (EWS) quota.
The 12 June order came on a petition moved by seven people who alleged that the K.J. Somaiya Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai also charged them for an anaesthetist, even though the service was never provided to them while they were admitted there for three weeks — between 11 and 28 April.
A bench of justices comprising R.D. Dhanuka and Madhav J. Jamdar directed that the enquiry will be conducted under the personal supervision of the Charity Commissioner of Maharashtra, Rajesh Narendrakumarji Joshi and an affidavit on the outcome of the probe will be filed by 19 June.
The court will take up the matter again on 23 June.
A direction was also issued to the hospital to file its response to the petition, specifying whether beds were available under the 10 per cent EWS quota at the time when the petitioners were admitted to the hospital.
“There are serious allegations made in the petition regarding the alleged exorbitant charges collected by the respondent number one from the petitioners who were admitted in the hospital for the treatment of COVID,” the court noted in its order.
Hospital to explain if PPE kits were provided or used
According to the petitioners, the hospital raised a bill of Rs 10.6 lakh for the treatment of Covid-19.
The petition said the seven were never informed about the 10 per cent free of charge facility under the EWS quota and the hospital also did not extend any such benefits while imposing the “unnecessary high charges” under the “pretext of treatment”.
It was alleged that the hospital had included charges towards “anaesthetist fees”, despite no treatment by one.
“It is the case of the petitioner that no services of anaesthetist doctor were provided to the petitioner in the respondent hospital,” the order noted.
The court also asked the hospital to indicate in its affidavit whether any PPE kits were provided or used for the treatment of the petitioners as was indicated in the bill that was annexed with the petition.
It was alleged in the petition that the hospital had “threatened” to “evict them” if they did not pay up. The fear of being left dying on the streets made them pay the bill.
“The fear of the petitioners was commercialised,” read the plea.
In its order the court directed the hospital to submit details of whether it raised a similar bill for other patients treated for Covid-19 at the same time as the petitioners, who have demanded a refund of the excess fee levied on them.