The Pinarayi Vijayan government has capped the price of the general ward at Rs 2,500, which includes nursing, boarding, blood transfusion, and oxygen services
The Kerala High Court on Monday accused the state’s private hospitals of “looting” people, and approved the state government’s decision to regulate the price of COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals.
Hailing the Kerala government’s order as “fantastic”, the bench of justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagth said, “Government order dated 10 May, 2021, shall be implemented by the government and all stakeholders and any admissions after this order will be governed by the rates. All private hospitals would be bound to offer treatment strictly as per GO and any violation will be strictly dealt with.”
“We have examined this GO (government order) very closely and are more than pleased with it. We find these rates to be extremely reasonable,” the court added.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government has capped the price of the general ward at Rs 2,500, which includes nursing, boarding, blood transfusion, and oxygen services. COVID-19 drugs like remdesivir, and PPE kits will be sold only at MRP, the government order stated.
Additionally, the cost of an RT-PCR test has been set at Rs 500.
The court order added that officials under the Kerala Clinical Establishments Act “will function as grievance redressal authorities to check overpricing”, LiveLaw reported. Lastly, the state government instructed all hospitals to reserve 50 percent of its beds for COVID-19 patients.
The court also took private hospitals to task for over inflated bills.
“Imagine the plight of a citizen who earns Rs 1,000 and sees a bill of 2-3 lakh. We are seeing infections rising rapidly. This is not an isolated case. anyone can catch the infection now. You are looting people. Think about it, we have to intervene now,” the court was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench.
The high court stated that patients were being charged exorbitantly for the “humble” porridge in hospitals. “We found unconscionable billings, Rs 22,000 for PPE kits. Look at the bills. We saw our humble kanji is charged at Rs 1,300. Dolo is charged at Rs 30 to 40,” the bench said.
Calling for a “workable solution”, private hospitals argued that they should be allowed to charge prices that will aid their smooth functioning.
The solution has to be workable: Adv K Anand
Some hospitals are looting patients, even after our last order we have unconscionable billing from hospitals!
We don’t usually intervene, but this is an extraordinary situation! Court
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) May 10, 2021
In response, the court said, “No hospital has 100 percent occupancy, now because of the pandemic all your ventilators, bipacs, beds are occupied… we expected the private hospitals to graciously come before us and offer to reduce rates.”
Announcing its order, the court added, “Not one rupee of profit should be collected.”
In the course of the hearing on Monday, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) submitted a suggestion that the court “may draw a distinction between the poor and well to do people, who can pay a reasonable price for COVID-19 treatment”
However, the court said, “In a pandemic there is no rich and poor. We don’t approve cross-subsidisation during a pandemic.”
On 5 May, the court had directed the state government to “rationalise” hospital charges. “No hospital can be allowed to charge for consumables individually from patients, when they are being used commonly and it is necessary that such expenses be charged on a prorata basis,” the interim order was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
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