Charitable hospitals in Mumbai treated only 4.56 lakh poor patients in 11 years
Despite having 17% of beds from Maharashtra’s charitable hospitals, city hospitals provide treatment to only 6% underprivileged patients, indicates data from state charity commissioner’s office. This suggests the hospitals are not allotting the mandatory 20% beds to poorer patients at concessional rate or for free.
Data from charity commissioner’s office during, compiled from September 2006 to December 2017, revealed that hospitals across Maharashtra provided concessional treatment to 70,94,547 patients. However, only 4,56,750 of them were treated in Mumbai. This happened despite Mumbai having 74 out of 430 charitable hospitals in the state and 1,768 of the approximately 10,000 reserved beds.
Shivkumar Dighe, charity commissioner, said Mumbai’s share in providing treatment to poor patients across the state should have been higher, as it is home to more than 20 largest charitable hospitals in the state.
“Major issue is lack of awareness among people about the scheme under which they can avail best possible treatment at these hospitals. But in recent years, the number has witnessed a slight increase, as we are creating awareness about the scheme at public hospitals,” said Dighe.
As per provision of section 41AA of the Bombay Public Charitable Trust Act, charitable hospitals have the legal obligation to reserve a fifth of the total number of operational beds for underprivileged patients. Hospitals get tax exemptions and other concessions if they are run by charitable trusts. In return they are supposed to provide subsidised treatment to poor patients. While patients with annual income less than Rs 85,000 are eligible for free treatment, those earning below Rs1.60lakh can receive treatment at a concessional rate.
Dr PM Bhujang, president of Association of Hospitals, a group of 53 not-for-profit charitable institutions in Mumbai, said not a single underprivileged patients was turned down by the hospitals. “One of the reasons for less percentage of patients could be the cost of living in Mumbai. Awareness wise, we have put up boards and large posters in the hospitals to inform people about the scheme,” he added.
However, public health experts said it is the lack of deterrents and monitoring that enables the large charitable hospital to avoid treating these patients. “Charitable hospitals in Mumbai are on par with corporate facilities and considered as the tertiary care medical facilities. It’s sad that they treat only 6% of total patients in the state because all the major charitable hospitals are in Mumbai,” said Abhijeet More, convenor of Jan Aarogya Abhiyan.
More added charitable hospitals, which receive benefits like cheap land, exemption on custom duty for importing medical equipment, concession in electricity and water bills should extend these benefits to poor patients.
The hospitals pay for the treatment though Indigent Patient Fund (IPF) in which 2% of the total patients’ billing (excluding the bill of indigent and weaker section patients) is credited each month.
Cracking the whip
The state has initiated a crackdown on private charitable hospitals for failing to provide treatment to poor patients for free or at concessional rate. Minister of state (MoS) for food and drugs administration (FDA) Madan Yerawar confirmed the development in the legislative council. He named various reputable hospitals against whom action has been initiated for violating norms.