Despite reserving 20% of its beds for poor and the needy, a charitable hospital in Mumbai had treated only four such patients – three in May and another in June – during the coronavirus-induced lockdown, the Bombay High Court has been told.
The State charity commissioner revealed this detail in an affidavit following a probe into an alleged incident of K.J. Somaiya Hospital charging ₹12.5 lakh from some ‘poor’ patients for COVID-19 treatment.
However, the affidavit also stated the petitioners – seven residents of an SRA building in suburban Bandra – have not disclosed their income status, supported by any documentary evidence, which would make them eligible for free treatment. The petitioners have sought refund of hospital bills.
During the inquiry, the hospital contended the government resolution (GR) capping the prices for COVID-19 treatment, reserving 20% beds and offering free treatment for the poor, came into effect on April 30 and May 21 respectively, which was after the patients were discharged.
Last week, the seven residents had approached the high court alleging that the hospital had charged them ₹12.5 lakh for treatment and had threatened to stop their discharge if they failed to pay the money.
In their plea filed through advocate Vivek Shukla, the petitioners had sought a refund saying that the hospital was bound to reserve beds for the poor and provide them free treatment since it was run by a charitable trust.
A Bench of Justices R.D. Dhanuka and Madhav Jamdar had then directed the State Charity Commissioner to conduct an inquiry in the matter.
In an affidavit submitted before the High Court on Friday, the charity commissioner said while the hospital had reserved 20% beds for persons from indigent and economically weaker sections, it had treated only four such patients since the lockdown came into force.
The first phase of coronavirus-induced lockdown came into effect on midnight of March 24.
According to the State charity commissioner, the hospital had treated three patients under the scheme for indigent and poor patients during the lockdown period till the end of May, while one such patient was treated in June.
However, there were no complaints about the hospital denying treatment to any patient during this period, the affidavit stated.
“The full inquiry report is awaited. However, it is clear that the hospital is not adhering to State’s mandate on providing free COVID-19 treatment, and free or subsidised non-COVID-19 treatment for the poor,” advocate Shukla claimed.
On April 30, the State government had issued a GR capping prices for COVID-19 treatment in private and charitable hospitals and on May 21, it had issued another resolution mandating that such hospitals reserve 20% beds and offer free treatment to the poor.
The treatment of six of the petitioners was already over on April 28 before the GRs dated April 30 and May 21 were passed, the affidavit stated. The court is likely to hear the matter further on June 23.