06 July 2011
By, Dhananjay Mahapatra
New Delhi, India
“You got the land at a very cheap rate from the government because of this promise. If you admit a poor patient but ask him to pay for everything, it is not free treatment,” said a bench comprising Justices
RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik as it gave the hospitals two weeks to prepare a comprehensive plan to give effective free treatment. The hospitals had moved the apex court against the order of the Delhi High Court directing them fulfil their promise to provide free treatment to the poor.
The Supreme Court, which had stayed the high court order, warned that it would withdraw the freeze if the hospitals failed to meet the two-week deadline to submit their free treatment plan.
In Delhi, private hospitals are given public land at cheaper rates on the condition they would earmark one-fourth of beds for economically weaker sections – a promise seldom kept.
Basic treatment to poor must be given free: SC
New Delhi: The Supreme Court brushed aside the argument put forward by the counsel for big hospitals, Mukul Rohatgi, that given the high cost of treatment and medicines, most of hospitals would be out of business if poor patients were to be given everything free of cost.
“It is not a hotel that your doctor will come, just say hello to the patient and then charge for everything. What is the fun in admitting poor patients in free beds and charging them exorbitant money. They are not beggars. They are entitled to free treatment as it is their land which has been given to you.” The court was not unconvinced by the case put up by private hospitals.
“We can understand some very costly treatment being subsidised for poor patients. But how can you charge for basic treatments. How can you ask for money from poor patients for x-ray, CT scan and blood tests? These basic treatments must be given free of cost; otherwise, the free bed concept will be meaningless,” the bench said. It posted the matter for hearing on July 25.
One of the petitioners – Dharamshila Hospital, a super specialty cancer hospital in Delhi – said it was impossible to give free drugs and disposables to 25% of OPD and 10% of the indoor patients as directed by Delhi HC. “Even government hospitals like AIIMS are not providing free medicines and consumables,” it said while pleading that if such a condition was insisted upon the hospital would have no option but to close down its services.
Hospitals that moved the Supreme Court against HC order included Jaipur Golden Hospital, Escorts Heart Institute, Bhagwati Hospital, Balaji Action Medical Institute, Devki Devi Foundation, Deepak Memorial Hospital and Sunder Lal Jain Hospital.