List pvt hospitals for free or affordable Covid care: SC tells Centre
New Delhi The Supreme Court has tasked the Centre with identifying private hospitals across the country for treating patients of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) either free or at a nominal cost.
The suggestion came on Wednesday from a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde that was hearing a public interest litigation on the excessive fees being charged by private hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients.
“When the nation is fighting a battle against the pandemic, all such private hospitals which are running on public land (allotted at concessional rates) or are running under the category of ‘charitable institutions’ should be called upon to provide the hospitalization and treatment to the Covid-19 patients pro bono publico (free of cost) or on no-profit basis,” said the petition filed by lawyer Sachin Jain.
The bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, found merit in the submission and requested solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to take instructions on the matter and respond within a week.
The bench told Mehta, “These hospitals have been given land either free of cost or at concessional rates. They should treat patients also for free.”
Jain informed the court that a majority of the citizens cannot afford the high cost of treatment at private hospitals. Many are not covered by insurance schemes that can foot the bills.
Given the resource crunch of government-owned hospitals, he argued, “It becomes apparent that the government/public health sector alone may not be able to manage the fallout, and hence, extensive participation of the private healthcare sector would be required.”
At present, there is no cost regulation for treatment of Covid-19 patients in private hospitals, the petition filed by Sachin Jain stated. . The petition said hospital beds and basic treatment can be offered at a concessional prices; surgical operations or procedures can be kept out of the ambit of free or concessional treatment.
Mehta informed the apex court that a decision of this nature is a policy matter and must be left to the wisdom of the government. He agreed to take instructions on the matter from the government and respond to the concerns expressed by the court within a week.