“Free beds for poor patients lying vacant in private hospitals”

Quality health care continues to be an elusive right for patients belonging to the economically weaker section (EWS) of society with the latest inspection by the Delhi High Court-constituted monitoring committee stating that there “was only partial compliance of providing the free beds reserved for EWS patients in private hospitals”.

“On April 28 we inspected four hospitals -- Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre having 50 free beds, PSRI Hospital having 11 free beds, Venu Eye Institute & Research Centre having 15 free beds and Primus Super Specialty Hospital having 13 free beds. It was noted that despite having state-of-the-art facilities in all these private hospitals, the occupancy in free beds category is very low. As many as 30 free beds in Batra Hospital, nine in PRSI Hospital and eleven in Primus Super Specialty Hospital for EWS patients were found vacant,” said Delhi High Court-constituted committee member Ashok Agarwal.

Mr. Agarwal noted: “It is really unfortunate that on the one hand the government-run hospitals are overcrowded and on the other the state-of-the-art medical facilities available totally free for EWS patients in such and other private hospitals have remained underutilised.”

The Committee also noted that now the family income limit for EWS category has been increased from Rs.6,422 per month to Rs.7,020 per month. Mere declaration of income by EWS patient or its relative is sufficient proof and the hospital cannot demand any document.

Stating that the only way to utilise the maximum number of free beds facility available in these private hospitals is that the Government must refer an adequate number of EWS patients from its own hospitals, Mr. Agarwal said: “EWS patients from all over the country are eligible to get totally free treatment in 43 identified private hospitals of Delhi. There are over 800 free beds available in these 43 identified private hospitals for EWS patients but still more than 80 per cent of such beds always remain vacant.”

Refuting claims of partial compliance, Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre medical superintendent Dr. R. K. Sharma said: “The figures here are not accurate. On the day of the inspection we had EWS patients also on dialysis and we had 31 EWS beds which were occupied and only 19 EWS were vacant. Besides, of the 359 patients we attended to in the out patient department, 135 were from the EWS category that day which is higher than what we are required to look after as per the Delhi High Court order.”

PSRI medical superintendent Dr. Sanjeev Gupta said: “There is no active effort made to keep ‘actual' EWS patients out. However, the hospital is having a problem in weeding those who should be the actual beneficiaries of the scheme from those who want to misuse it. We keep getting patients with fake EWS papers looking for cheap treatment at our hospital.”

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