MUMBAI: The Union government on Friday told the Bombay High Court only those private doctors whose services were requisitioned by government hospitals for COVID-19 duty shall be covered under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana insurance package of Rs 50 lakh.
Advocate Sandesh Patil, appearing for the Union government, told a division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla that the scheme does not extend to all private doctors but only those who were requisitioned by government authorities for COVID-19 duty.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Navi Mumbai resident Kiran Surgade seeking the insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh for her doctor husband, who died after being infected with coronavirus.
As per the plea, the petitioner's husband, Bhaskar Surgade, an Ayurveda doctor, got a notice from Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) commissioner asking him to keep his dispensary open with the warning that action would be taken if he fails to comply with the notice.
The plea said Surgade kept his clinic open and treated patients, including those infected by COVID-19, and he too contracted the infection and died on June 10, 2020.
The petitioner applied for the Rs 50 lakh compensation with New India Assurance under the government scheme but the same was rejected on the ground that her husband was not serving in any hospital or government healthcare centre and, therefore, was not eligible.
Patil on Friday told HC the government has sympathy for such doctors but the benefit of the scheme was only for doctors working in public hospitals, or private doctors who were requisitioned by the authorities.
The court, however, noted that it was "a matter of interpretation" as to who all will benefit from the scheme.
The court directed the government to obtain data from insurance companies as to how many claims were received from relatives of doctors who opened their private clinics to treat patients and succumbed to COVID-19.
"How many private doctors suffered COVID-19? On humanitarian grounds, if private doctors suffered death after opening their dispensary, can we do anything from them?" the bench asked.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on January 13 and directed the Union government to file an affidavit.