Don’t Formalize Free Service to Poor: Doctors
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04 July 2011
By, Jayashree Nandi
HC Seeks Info On Parameters For Their Treatment
Here is another cue to private hospitals to make healthcare affordable to the have-nots. A high court division bench headed by the chief justice recently directed the central government and various private hospitals to submit proposals by July 11 on parameters for treatment of poor patients.
This obviously is not a comfortable proposition to many private hospitals that do offer free service but do not want to formalize the process. But this may help them get exemption from 10% duty on import of the latest medical equipment.
The bench has said that the hospitals could indicate the eligible income group, range or period they can provide such free service (years), supervisory mechanism, identification of beneficiaries through records and also minimum number of poor patients to be treated upon.
Dr Devi Shetty, chairman, Narayana Hrudayalaya, said: “The import duty is 10% and is affordable to many hospitals. If the exemption mechanism has to be implemented for all hospitals, the process should be clear. The hospitals should give a voucher to the government for a set period of time, say 10 years. The government should shortlist the patients and monitor the process.’’ He added that the private hospitals will accept these guidelines only if they know what they will get in return.
“As part of the corporate social responsibility, we treat many patients at subsidized rates. We have a four-member medical social department. But healthcare in private hospitals is a commercial activity. Free service should come from an internal realization of the management and not from any guidelines" said Dr Nagendra Swamy, group medical director, Manipal Hospital. He added that at present they don’t have a specific percentage of beds allotted for free treatment.
BGS hospitals said they have a policy of treating at least 10% of their patients for free but do not have segregation of these beds. “We have a trust that supports drugs for the patients. We treat many patients at subsidized rates. If the guidelines are feasible, then why not, said Dr N K Venkatramana, vicechairman and chief neurosurgeon, BGS Global Hospitals.
“Fortis Hospitals is connected with NGOs like Needy Heart Foundation, German ENR Foundation and Pacemaker Foundation. Through Needy Heart and ENR Foundation, we have been able to treat over 100 paediatric cardiac cases every year at a subsidized cost" said Dr Lloyd Nazareth, COO, Fortis Hospitals. But they too do not have free beds for patients.
If the 55 hospitals that moved the court against the recovery notice of duty for import of medical equipment agree to having clear guidelines on free treatment to poor, it would set a precedent for all other private hospitals From 1988 to 1994, these 55 hospitals enjoyed duty exemption but the Centre said it would recover the duty as the hospitals hadn’t given free service to a section of patients that is mandatory for the exemption. The hospitals moved court