KOCHI: Lauding the state’s decision to cap the treatment charges at private hospitals, the Kerala High Court on Monday held the government order should be strictly implemented immediately. Any hospital admission after the issue of the order would be governed by the rates and conditions detailed in it, the court said.
The court also ordered that private hospitals in the state, where 50% of beds are reserved for Covid patients, are bound to offer treatment strictly as per the order and any violation would be dealt with by the authorities strictly. The government should make sure that the grievance redressal mechanism is implemented soon, the court ordered.
When the case came up for hearing, state attorney K V Sohan told the court that the government has fixed the per-day rates in general wards of the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers-accredited hospitals and non-NABH accredited hospital at `2,910 and `2,645, respectively. This is inclusive of oxygen, medicines, nursing and boarding charges, pathology and radiology tests, etc.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Kauser Edappagath held that the Incident Commanders appointed by the government under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act should ensure that the terms and conditions of the government order are implemented in letter and spirit by all private hospitals.
Every private hospital in the state should display the rates of the services to be given to the public and in particular, to the Covid patients, held the court. The hospitals should also publish the price lists of drugs required for the treatment.
The government should consider setting up a toll-free number so that a citizen in distress can access that number and obtain the best available option for treatment. The government should also consider adding hospital beds from time to time depending upon the number of Covid patients reported. For this purpose, the government could consider taking over suitable auditoriums, halls, hotels, hostels, and other suitable places.
“Private establishments running FLTCs are also bound to offer services at rates fixed in the government’s order. Authorities should ensure that no one violates these orders,” the bench held. The court made it clear that private hospitals cannot charge more than the cost at which consumables and PPE kits and essential equipment like oximeters are purchased. Incident Commanders and the DMO should constantly keep an eye on such practices, the court said.
If a patient belongs to the below poverty line category or is unable to afford the rates mentioned in the government order, the hospital must bring it to the notice of the District Program and Supporting Unit. The appropriate unit can decide åwhether the patient is can be either considered as a government referred one or to be brought under Karunya Arogya Suraksha Padhathi (KASP). This should be done after verifying the credentials and eligibility, the court held.
A ‘PATIENT CARE’ ORDER
The Bench said that it is more than pleased with the government order since it provides for a specific mechanism of grievance redressal. The court added that it’s a ‘patient care’ order. The government added that 50 per cent of all private hospital beds in the government, private hospitals including private medical colleges, cooperative and ESI hospitals have been ordered to be extensively reserved for treatment of Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalisation.
RATES NOT PRACTICAL: HOSPS
Kerala Private Hospitals Association submitted before the court that the rates now fixed by the government may not be practicable. However, they are willing to follow the order for a few days. They also sought a directive to the government to hear their concerns and reduce the water and power charge during the period. The court granted liberty to them to approach it as and when required.