The 10 multispecialty private hospitals directed to treat poor patients free of cost have promised to abide by the Supreme Court order. However , they have also hinted at passing on the costs to paying patients. After the court announced its order on Thursday, the hospitals said poor patients will not be charged for medication, treatment, surgery, nursing , consumables and nonconsumables ; however, since their financial burden will go up they might need to increase charges for other patients.
As per the court order, private hospitals that have got land at concessional rates should reserve 25% of their out-patient department capacity and 10% of beds at the indoor level for free treatment of the poor. Hospitals charging such patients can face prosecution for contempt of court.
Dr DK Baluja, medical director of Jaipur Golden hospital, said, “We will abide by the court decision. To meet the financial burden caused by increased expenses in treating the poor patients we might increase charges for paying patients and undertake in-house cost cutting measures.”
Executive director of Dharamshila Cancer Hospital , Dr Suvarsha Khanna, said palliative care for cancer patients, which includes long-term chemotherapy and radiation treatment, costs several lakh rupees. “If everybody has to be treated with drugs and disposables for free, the hospital will not be able to sustain itself for long. We will not be able to add newer technology and the quality of our services might get affected,” she said.
A senior official at Max Healthcare welcomed the court’s decision to let them raise funds to sponsor free treatment and find other sources of income for funding poor patients. “We welcome the judgment and shall discharge our obligation accordingly,” said the official.
Authorities at Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, and VIMHANS maintained that they had not received the copy of the order and would not be able to comment officially. Deepak Memorial hospital and Bhagwati hospital – also petitioners in the case – said they will implement the order.
Dr RN Das of Delhi government’s Directorate of Health Services, said the court order will go a long way in helping poor patients get free treatment. “We will work on the strategy to monitor its effective implementation . Government hospitals will be encouraged to refer needy patients,” he said.
As per government records , most of the free beds in top private hospitals were lying vacant even on Thursday while the hospitals maintained that no poor patient who comes to them was turned away.
Earlier, private hospitals submitted a proposals to the Delhi government regarding the implementation of free treatment for poor patients that was summarily rejected. At least five hospitals , including VIMHANS and Jaipur Golden Hospital, advocated the creation of a corpus fund – two per cent of the hospital’s turnover – which will be utilized on a quarterly basis.
If the fund is exhausted before the quarter, then providing free service won’t be mandatory.