Cities » Hyderabad

Updated: August 10, 2012 11:02 IST

Should private hospitals provide free treatment?

M. Sai Gopal
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The Hindu

There are many sides to this raging debate

Is the government’s insistence and frequent criticism from various quarters that super-specialty hospitals in the capital do not provide free treatment to poor patients justified?

In the present circumstances, where healthcare sector does not have an ‘industry’ status, is it viable for private hospitals to treat a portion of their patients for free?

Divided opinions

Many arguments exist and the opinion is divided. Some assert that, in general, all corporate hospitals in Hyderabad avoid poor patients unless they have Arogyasri health insurance cover. There are others who argue that insistence of free treatment to poor patients by corporate hospitals is not practical.

Reimbursement scheme

Specialty hospitals in Hyderabad vie for government’s recognition to empanel in the reimbursement scheme to treat State government employees. In agreement with the State government, hospitals undertake that 25 to 30 per cent of the poor will be treated for free.

They assure to provide free treatment to students from social welfare hostels. Similar promises are also made while importing hi-tech medical equipment at the Customs Department.

“Is the government providing sops like it does to software companies? There is not a single SEZ meant for hospitals. They do not get discounts in electricity bills, do not have tax holiday.

Not many corporate hospitals in Hyderabad have received land cheaply. All of them pay taxes to 26 different agencies. Insisting that 25 to 30 per cent of their patients be treated for free is not practical,” says former IMA member C.L. Venkat Rao.

Medical education

Physicians point out that catering only to patients who can ‘afford’ treatment will have an impact on medical education too. “Corporate hospitals have good infrastructure. However, compared to government hospitals, because of costly treatment, they do not have enough patients presenting wide array of ailments. So, MBBS students attached to such hospitals will not have clinical exposure. Private hospitals should be affordable for all,” feels former Principal of Gandhi Hospital, Pradeep Deshpande.

No regulation

Then there is the question of regulation. “The government has made them enter into an agreement for free treatment. But, they have not bothered at all to regulate. There is no vigilance and monitoring of functioning of corporate hospitals. If the government extends benefits given to IT sector, then insistence of free treatment is justified,” Dr. Venkat Rao adds.

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