File photo: Bombay High Court .
File photo: Bombay High Court .

‘Exorbitant? Go for govt facilities’: HC on petition seeking cap on Covid-19 charges in private hospitals

The High Court accepted the Goa government’s contention that “if any persons find the rates unaffordable, it is always open to such persons to avail of the government facilities - free of charge.”
By Gerard de Souza | Hindustan Times, Panaji
UPDATED ON JAN 05, 2021 06:10 PM IST

The Bombay High Court at Goa has disposed of a petition challenging the Goa government’s inaction on the high rates charged by the private hospitals for testing and treating Covid-19 patients.

The High Court accepted the Goa government’s contention that “if any persons find the rates unaffordable, it is always open to such persons to avail of the government facilities - free of charge.”

“Since most of the issues raised in this petition are subject matter of the suo motu writ petition pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it will not be appropriate for this Court to adjudicate upon the very same issues. The submission/statement made by the Advocate General in relation to the rates for Covid tests, to a substantial extent, redresses the grievance on this issue, as well,” the HC stated.

In his petition, Dr Aquaviva Fernandes, a medical practitioner said that the rates are “arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory, thereby violating the fundamental rights enshrined under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India and need to be revisited and modified in favour of the interest of public health and safety at large.”

The Goa government had last year, set caps on charges for Covid-19 treatment that were considered ‘astronomical’. According to the notification, a private hospital can charge a room rent no higher than Rs 12,000 per day for a bed in a general ward, Rs 15,000 per day for a twin sharing room, Rs 18,000 per day for a single private room and Rs 25,000 per day for a bed in an ICU with a ventilator.

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Dr Fernandes pointed out that the rates capped in some other states were much lesser than Goa which has by far the highest rates amongst other states in India. He pointed out that rates in other states, such as Tamil Nadu (Rs. 2,500), Uttar Pradesh (at Rs. 1,600), Maharashtra (at Rs. 2,200), Kerala (at R. 2,750) and Delhi (at Rs. 2,400), were much lower than Goa.

Dr Fernandes had also argued that “the poor conditions prevailing in government-run hospitals and the over-stretched infrastructure deter the general public from getting admission in government hospitals.

“[On account of] the low capacity for admission of Covid-19 patients and exceedingly overcrowded wards at government hospitals, symptomatic Covid-19 positive patients are forced to move from pillar to post seeking admission, ultimately compelled to resort to treatment at private hospitals,” Dr Fernandes said in his petition.

At the time the petition was filed in early October last year, Goa was at its peak of the Covid-19 crisis with images surfacing of patients being made to sleep on the floor of the state’s premier medical research facility - the Goa Medical College and Hospital - as well as a shortage of beds at the government-run facilities.

Since then, however, the situation has improved with Goa’s active cases now being only around 900, down from the 3,000-odd cases back then.

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