The Kerala High Court on Monday lauded the decision of the Kerala government to impose a ceiling on price charged by private hospitals for COVID treatment below Rs 3000.
The Government order (GO) which also mandated that all hospitals should reserve 50 percent of its beds for COVID patients was a given a green signal by the High Court which proceeded to direct that the same be implemented strictly.
“GO dated May 10, 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,” the Court ordered.
We are more than pleased with the GO, A Bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagth added.
It provides grievance redressal mechanism and the ambit of tariff that can be charged by the private sector and we find these rates to be extremely reasonable because it includes all components of basic hospitalization, the order noted.
The judgment came in a plea moved over the pricing of medical treatment in private hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the hearing of the matter last week, the Court had made several suggestions for the State to consider, including whether the government could take over 50 percent of beds in private hospitals for a temporary period in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the matter was taken up on Monday, the State counsel informed the Court that the government has issued an order in this regard.
As per the GO, the price for general ward would be Rs. 2,645, including registration, bed, nursing and boarding, blood transfusion, oxygen, Xray, consultation, diagnosis etc,” State counsel said.
He added that expenses for costly medicines like Remdesivir will be separate while the rate for RT-PCR test would remain at Rs. 500 as fixed by the government earlier.
The lawyer appearing for private hospitals, however, opposed the same. He gave details of the expenses incurred by hospitals stating that though they don’t want to charge extreme prices during pandemic, they also have constraints.
But the Bench said that it found the government stand appreciable.
It also took strong exception to the charges being levied by certain hospitals.
“We found unconscionable billings, Rs 22,000 for PPE kits. Look at the bills. We saw our humble “Kanji” is charged at Rs. 1300. Our Humble Kanji. Dolo is charged at Rs. 30-40,” the Bench said.
“Imagine the plight of a citizen who earns 1000 and sees a bill of 2-3 lakhs”, the Court added, stating it will intervene.
The Court besides ordering implementation of the GO also proceeded to issue the following directions:
– Grievance redressal mechanisms to be implemented forthwith and State level Authority is also to be in place immediately;
– Incident commanders appointed by the Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) directed to check whether GO is being flouted by any hospital;
– Every Private hospital will display rates of services (especially COVID-19 treatment) as per Sec 39 of the Clinical Establishment Act,2018and Rules;
– State to consider having a toll-free number in place for citizens seeking COVID-19 treatment;
– Government to consider adding on hospital beds from time to time. The State to also consider taking auditoriums, hotels, halls, hostels and such other for beds so that burden of a citizen to go to private hospital can be attenuated;
– No private hospital can charge for drugs, oximeter more than the cost price at which it is procured. We direct Incident Commanders and DMOs to monitor this. Not one rupee of profit should be collected, said the Court
– Merely because GO permits 5 PPE kits for ICU, it shall not be charged, unless it is on pro-rata basis, depending on number of patients.
An issue regarding ambulances was also raised before the Bench but the Court declined to pass any order on the same.
“We will not interfere. You are expanding too much. Bring it to the notice of the government. It is doing well…It has come up with a fantastic order,” the Court said.
The case will be heard again after two weeks
Read Government order here: