Supreme Court asks Centre to identify hospitals where Covid19 patients can be treated free of cost

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to identify private hospitals where COVID-19 infected patients could get treatment for free or at a nominal cost.

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A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, hearing the case via video-conferencing, observed that there are private hospitals which have been granted land either free of cost or at nominal rates and they should give treatment to coronavirus infected patients for free of cost.

“You identify all those hospitals and find out,” the bench, also including Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. “They have been given land either free of cost or at a very nominal rate. These charitable hospitals should treat patients for free,” the bench observed and posted the matter for hearing after one week.

Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the apex court that this being a policy issue was required to be decided by the government. Mehta stated he would register a response on the issue.

The bench was hearing an application registered in a plea which has sought a direction for regulating the cost of treatment of coronavirus at private hospitals across the country.

The apex court had issued notice to the Centre on April 30 and sought its response on the plea, filed by advocate Sachin Jain, which purported that private hospitals are “commercially exploiting” patients suffering from coronavirus in this hour of adversity.

The petition stated that the government should command private hospitals which are operating on public land allotted at concessional rates or operating under the category of charitable institutions to at least for the present should treat COVID-19 patients either pro bono Publico (for the public good) or on a no-profit basis.

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“The issue requires an urgent consideration of this court as many private hospitals are commercially exploiting the patients suffering from COVID-19 to make a fortune out of their miseries in the hour of national crisis,” the plea has alleged.

It has also sought a direction to the Centre to borne the cost of COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals for the poor and vulnerable, who neither have any insurance cover nor have coverage under government schemes like Ayushman Bharat and also of those who have the coverage but the cost of treatment exceeds their reimbursement.

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In exercise of powers under the Disaster Management Act, the plea has stated that the Centre has governed the cost of tests for COVID-19 in the private health sector and on the same analogy, the government can also regulate the cost of treatment in private hospitals to fight the pandemic.

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