The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday upheld the high court order of March 2007 that makes it mandatory for private hospitals to provide free treatment to the underprivileged, earmarking 25% of their out-patient department (OPD) capacity and 10% of their in-patient capacity.
The apex court reproached private hospitals for not treating enough underprivileged people, especially as most of them had been built on land given at heavily subsidised rates.
The ruling has evoked mixed reactions from private healthcare providers.
While medical care giant Fortis — which has at least three major hospitals in the defaulting list including Fortis Escorts Heart and Research Centre, Fortis Flight Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital and Fortis Seth Jessa Ram Hospital, refused to comment till they “receive a copy of the order,” Max Healthcare, another leader in the medical service industry said they would find alternate methods to “raise funds to sponsor free treatment”.
“Though the honourable court dismissed the SLP’s (special leave petition), the court accepted our request of being allowed to raise funds to sponsor free treatment and has clarified in its orders that hospitals would be free to find other resources to fund poor patients. We welcome the judgment and shall discharge our obligation accordingly,” said a release from the Max administration.
Some such as the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre and Sir Gangaram Hospital said they were charitable hospitals and had been treating the poor. “We are already following the SC guidelines as this is in-keeping with the vision of the founder. We do not refuse anybody with the blue card,” said Dr RK Ganjoo, medical director, Sir Gangaram Hospital .
“ISIC has been providing higher number of free beds than the mandated requirement. If any hospital takes land at institutional rates its part of the obligation to give free treatment to the poor,” said HS Chhabra, medical director, ISIC.
“We had requested the SC to fix a bar on the costs of consumables to be provided to the poor, which the apex court rejected,” said Dr DP Saraswat, CEO, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.