New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the central government why private hospitals which had been given land free of cost can’t treat Covid-19 patients free of cost.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy ordered the Centre to identify hospitals where Covid-19 patients can be treated free of cost or at minimal costs.
The government has been asked to provide a response to the petition within a week.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a lawyer, Sachin Jain, demanding “cost related regulations” for treatment of Covid-19 patients in private/corporate hospitals.
Jain refers to news reports alleging inflated billing by private hospitals, and submits that “when the nation is fighting a battle against the pandemic, all such private hospitals which are running on public land (allotted at concessional rates) or are running under the category of “charitable institutions” should be called upon to provide the hospitalisation and treatment to the Covid-19 patients pro bono publico/ non-profit basis”.
The petition further asserts that tariffs of other private hospitals should also be regulated by the government on a “fixed cost basis”.
It refers to a 2007 judgment in which the Delhi High Court had condemned the conduct of various hospitals in the Capital for not adhering to their social commitments despite receiving benefits from the government. This was after the high court took note of the concessional allotment of land to over 20 major hospitals in Delhi and the consequent failure on their part to honour their commitment of providing free treatment to the poor.
The petition also submits that the public health sector might not be able to handle the current burden, saying, “…given the resource constraints of Public health sector, it becomes apparent that government/public health sector alone may not be able to manage the fallout, and hence, extensive participation of the private healthcare sector would be required particularly in dealing with moderate and severe cases of Covid-19 that would require hospitalisation”.
Jain, therefore, seeks regulations on the tariff structure for regulating private hospitals treating Covid-19 patients to make them affordable.
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