The Delhi government fined five prominent private city hospitals Rs 600 crore for not treating poor patients as mandated by the law, underscoring the scanty healthcare options available to the economically weaker sections (EWS).
Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in Okhla, Max Superspeciality Hospital in Saket, Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute in south Delhi, Dharmashila Hospital and Research Centre and Shanti Mukund Hospital in east Delhi were fined.
Government rules stipulate 10% of all patients admitted to private hospitals must be poor and treated free of cost if the institute has been given subsidised land.
In addition, 25% of all out- patient services must cater to poor people without charge and government hospitals can also refer their cases to these institutes.
The city administration’s Thursday order said the five hospitals flouted the rules despite getting subsidised land, invoking a March 2007 Delhi high court ruling that said private hospitals should be fined for earning profits from beds reserved for poor patients.
“The money recovered would be used to set up a corpus fund to be used for Delhi’s health sector,” said Dr Hem Parkash, additional director, in-charge of beds for people from the EWS.
The fine came after a government audit of hospital services given to poor patients between the time the institutes were set up and the high court order.
“The hospitals were served notices last December and given a hearing. The Thursday order is final and binding,” said Parkash. Hospitals have been given a month to deposit the fine.
The hospitals have disputed the order and said they were committed to treating poor patients. “We treat thousands of EWS patients every year and are extremely serious towards fulfilling our obligations. We will prefer an appeal against this order,” said the Devki Devi Foundation, the parent organisation of Saket’s Max hospital.