The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Delhi’s private hospitals, built on subsidised government land, to provide free treatment to the poor, saying they cannot “wriggle out” of their responsibility.
A bench of justices R V Raveendrana and A K Patnaik asked the city hospitals to reserve 25 per cent of their out-patient department capacity and 10 per cent of beds at the indoor level for free treatment of the poor.
The hospitals cannot “wriggle out” of their responsibility to treat the poor free of cost, the court said.
“The bottom line is that the poor patients are not to be charged,” said the bench, dismissing the plea of some private hospitals against providing free treatment to the poor.The court passed the order on a batch of petitions filed by ten private hospitals challenging a Delhi High Court order to provide free treatment to the poor patients as per the land lease agreements between the government and them.
There are 37 hospitals which were granted land by the government at concessional rates out of which 27 have been providing free treatment to poor patients.
“Why did you (hospitals) take the land? You hand over the land to the government and purchase it somewhere else,” the bench remarked when the counsel appearing for the hospitals pleaded that it was not practical to provide free treatment to the poor in all the cases.
“You want to wriggle out after signing the contract with the government while taking the land (at concessional rate),” the bench said.
The hospitals contended that the treatment of diseases like cancer, neuro surgery and plastic surgery are costly and cannot be provided free of cost.
The bench upheld the Delhi High Court’s order, which, in 2007, had ruled that all private hospitals which were given public land at highly subsidised costs would provide free treatment to the poor, earmarking 25 per cent of their out-patient department (OPD) capacity and 10 per cent of their in-patient department capacity for them.
“They (poor patients) will be provided free admission, bed, medication, treatment, surgery facility, nursing facility and consumables and non-consumables. The hospitals charging any money from such patients shall be liable to be proceeded against in accordance with the law. Besides that, this would be treated as violation of the orders of the court,” the high court had said.
The high court had pronounced the judgement on a PIL seeking implementation of the land lease agreement between the government and the hospitals for providing, among other things, free treatment to certain percentage of the poor patients out of their total treatment capacities.