COVID-19 surge: Govt. should take over 50% beds in private hospitals, suggests Kerala HC

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Thursday suggested that the government take over 50% of the beds of all the private hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The Bench also suggested setting up a common toll-free number to enable patients to get medical assistance and information on hospitals beds with oxygen, ventilators etc.

A management system to deal with different kinds of patients should be put in place, it said.

The Bench, comprising Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagath, made these suggestions during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition which sought the regulation of charges for COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals. The petitioner alleged that private hospitals were collecting exorbitant charges for treatment of the pandemic.

The Bench said that if one common toll-free number which the people could easily remember were published, a person in need of hospital beds and other medical assistance would not have to hunt and find out which numbers given by the government had to be called. Besides, by putting the patient management system in place, a lot of stress would be taken off the hospitals.

Three parameters

The court made it clear that three parameters were non-negotiable — non-discriminatory access to all public health facilities, adequate medical treatment and affordable charges for medical treatment. They were part of the constitutionally guaranteed right to health under Article 21.

The charges for the 50% beds reserved by the government in empanelled and the 50% beds in the non-empanelled hospital for COVID-19 patients had to be regulated, it suggested. A benchmark charge should be fixed for beds so that the treatment would be affordable for a walk-in patients. The consumable like PPE kits should be charged on a pro-rata basis and medicines used only on the basis of their actual price. The court expressed its doubt whether 50% bed reserved for COVID-19 patients in empaneled hospitals were kept ready.

State Attorney K.V.Sohan submitted that the government was in talks with the private hospitals managements and would fix charges depending on the facilities available at hospitals in three days. The authorities for examining the complaint of overcharging in each district would be designated and the authority to appeal against the decision of the district-level authority would also be designated.

The court asked the State Attorney to consider all suggestions at the discussion to be held with private hospital managements and take a policy decision on these issues.

The court posted the petition for further hearing on May 10.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 5:34:17 PM |

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