No power to direct private hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients free, Centre tells SC | India News

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Jun 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: The Union government on Thursday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying it had no statutory power to direct private and charitable hospitals to give free treatment to Covid-19 patients.
“There is no provision under the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010, whereby it is mandated that private hospitals running on public land shall treat Covid-19 patients on free basis. It is again reiterated that such policies may only be defined and implemented by the respective state governments,” the health ministry said in response to the SC’s query made on a petition filed by advocate Sachin Jain.
Acting on an application filed by Jain pointing out commercial exploitation of Covid-19 patients, given the scarce treatment facilities, a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy on May 27 had asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta why private hospitals, which were given land free or at nominal cost by the government, be not made to comply with an executive fiat to treat Covid-19 patients free.
The ministry said, “It would not be out of place to mention here that as per the guidelines of the state government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, 25% of OPD and 10% of IPD treatment is to be provided free of cost by private hospitals running on public land allocated on concessional rate to economically weaker section category of patients. This was implemented by government of Delhi in compliance of the SC’s September 1, 2011, order.”
Jain had requested the SC to direct the government to regulate cost of Covid-19 treatment in private/corporate hospitals across the country, private/charitable hospitals set up on land given free of cost to charge only actual cost of treatment to patients on no-profit basis and stop exploitation of poor patients by private hospitals.
The Centre said, “At present, private hospitals, including charitable institutions, are governed by the provisions of Clinical Establishments Act, 2010. Apart from the said Act, there is no separate provision or any other statutory provision which gives power to the Union of India to pass directions of the nature sought in the present petition to the charitable institutions.
“The central government, within its statutory powers or powers of delegated legislation, cannot make this particular bifurcation for the lack of a requisite statutory framework for the said classification. It is respectfully submitted that any order, as sought in the instant petition, would directly affect the financial health etc of such charitable institution, as such, it would not only be in the interest of justice but would also be desirable that any orders passed in the instant writ petition is passed after affording an opportunity of hearing to the said charitable institutions who would be directly affected by orders passed in the instant petition.”
The Centre said since health was a state subject, the “care cost” in the private sector was not regulated by the central government. “Besides public health, land management is under state list and therefore, state governments can take suitable action regarding the prayers made in the instant petition. However, each state/UT has initiated their own mechanism including cost of treatment in collaboration with private health facilities,” it added.
Jain’s application said, “With no treatment cost regulation in place, various private hospitals/doctors are commercially exploiting the plight of patients suffering from Covid-19 and making a fortune out of the health crisis staring at the nation and its population.”

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