‘Can’t expect patients to submit proof of income’

Bombay High Court directs Somaiya hospital to deposit ₹10 lakh

June 28, 2020 12:25 am | Updated 12:26 am IST - Sonam Saigal Mumbai

The Bombay High Court recently directed KJ Somaiya Hospital to deposit ₹10 lakhs in court in a case pertaining to charges levied for treatment of COVID-19.

Giving relief to the petitioners — seven residents of slums in Bharat Nagar in Bandra East — a Division Bench of Justice R.D. Dhanuka and Justice Madhav Jamdar said, “prima facie a person who is suffering from COVID-19 is not expected to produce a certificate before seeking admission in the hospital for benefits.”

The court was hearing a plea filed by Abdul Shoeb Shaikh and six others who were admitted to the public charitable trust hospital on April 11 for treatment of COVID-19. On April 28, the hospital charged them a total of over ₹10 lakh, which they paid after taking loans from family and friends.

In their petition, filed through advocate Vivek Shukla, they have challenged the bills raised by the hospital and sought a direction to the State government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for regulating the fees charged by private and corporate hospitals for treatment of COVID-19.

One of the contention in the petition is that though the hospital was required to reserve 10% beds for weaker sections, and 10% for indigent persons, no such beds are provided.

Senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, appearing for the hospital, said it was for the family to produce an income certificate from the tehsildar or social welfare officer. Mr. Shukla countered that the patients required immediate medical help, and did not need to produce such a certificate at the time of admission.

The court was informed that only three patients were admitted in March for the 90 beds earmarked for indigent persons, and persons belonging to weaker sections, under the Maharashtra Public Trust Act.

The court took note of the affidavit filed by the Charity Commissioner also which clearly indicated that only three patients had been treated under the scheme till the end of May 2020.

The court said, “In our prima-facie view a person who is suffering from a disease like COVID-19 is not expected to produce a tehsildar certificate or certificate from Social Welfare Officer before seeking admission in the hospital for seeking benefits under the Act.”

The judges also said, “We are not inclined to accept the submission made by the senior counsel that unless such certificate is produced by the family at the threshold, the hospital is not liable to admit any such patient under those categories in the precarious situation prevailing at the date of admission of the petitioners,” and directed the hospital to deposit ₹10,06,205 in two weeks.

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