November 19, 2010

Private hospitals must treat poor for free, says HC

Big private hospitals who got land at concessional rates in the city can't escape the obligation to provide free treatment to certain percentage of poor patients, the Delhi high court has said.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan on Thursday came down heavily on private hospitals shirking from extending free treatment to poor patients though it was one of the clause in the lease deed due to which land was given to hospitals at a very cheap price.

HC's comments came on a plea filed by a few prominent city hospitals like Ganga Ram and St Stephen's claiming that the 2007 landmark verdict of HC approving the free bed scheme wasn't applicable on them. The hospitals argued the lease deed with the government never made it compulsory for them to reserve free beds for 10% in the in patient department (IPD) and 25% in out patient department (OPD). They also pointed out how free camps were being held by the hospital administration to provide medical aid to the needy.

But the Land & Development Office of the central government through its counsel, Sanjiv Dube, informed HC that the policy of giving land at huge concessions to private hospitals has remained unchanged since 1949 with the basic premise that as a welfare state the government has a duty to ensure poor get free treatment.

The bench then warned that those found defaulting on 2007 HC ruling might even risk losing their lease deed and emphasized that private hospitals can't pick and choose patients, but its the government who can decide.

In 2007, HC had directed private hospitals, which had been given land at a concession in Delhi to provide free treatment including medicines to patients from families earning less than Rs 2,000 a month. The bench also appointed a special committee to monitor if hospitals adhere to the court order.

When the committee reported back that hospitals were deliberately shying away from honouring the HC verdict, the bench took a strong view and in one case, that of Apollo Hospital, even fined it for not offering free treatment to a poor patient.

Link: Original Article

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