ILNS: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court has sought replies from the Centre and the state government in a petition seeking strict implementation of a government order mandating allocation of a minimum 50% of total bed strength in private hospitals for Covid patients.
The Division Bench of Justice M.S. Ramesh and Justice B. Pugalendhi passed this order on May 6, while hearing a petition filed by A. Veronica Mary.
The PIL for a writ of mandamus, directed the respondents to strictly implement the Government Orders in Health and Family Welfare Department, dated June 5, 2020 and Health and Family Welfare Department, dated April 30, 2021.
The petition said that the Government Order in Health and Family Welfare Department, dated June 5, 2020, was issued by the Government for inclusion of new packages for the Covid treatment to the beneficiaries under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme for general public in empaneled private hospitals and labs by fixing ceiling rates for the Covid-19 treatment and for the test of RT-PCR.
The Government Order in Health and Family Welfare Department, dated April 30, 2021, directed all private clinical establishments in the state of Tamil Nadu to allocate minimum 50% of the total bed capacity for treating Covid-19 patients.
The petitioner said that the World Health Organisation has declared Covid-19 Pandemic as a public health emergency of international concern and taking note of the same, the Government issued Health and Family Welfare Department, dated June 5, 2020 during the first wave of Covid-19 Pandemic, fixing the cost of hospital expenses for the people undergoing treatment for Covid-19 Pandemic in the private hospitals.
The Government had classified the hospitals as Grade A1/A2 and Grade A3/A4, depending upon their infrastructure and facilities, and fixed the maximum cost for the treatment from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 per day, depending upon the facilities and the Grade.
The petitioner is that though the Government issued the order fixing the maximum cost to be charged for the treatment of Covid-19 by the private clinical establishments, it is not followed by the private hospitals and they are charging exorbitantly up to Rs 2,00,000 for 10 days.
The hospitals depending upon their Grade at the maximum can charge Rs 15,000/- per day, whereas, some hospitals are charging around Rs one lakh per day.
R. Alagumani, Counsel for the petitioner, has referred to some of the bills charged by the private hospitals, which is annexed in the typed set of papers filed along with the petition.
He further submitted that direction was issued on April 30, 2021 directing the private clinical establishments to allocate minimum 50% of the total bed capacity for treating the Covid-19 patients, since Covid-19 pandemic is declared as international health emergency. But private hospitals are not providing beds as directed in the said Government Order and there is no proper mechanism available for implementation of the above said Government Orders.
The Counsel for the petitioner further submitted that several other states are maintaining a separate web portal with the details of the availability of beds in the private hospitals for the treatment of the Covid-19 patients and the details of the prescribed fees are also made available in the web portal.
In view of the submission made by the Counsel for the petitioner and the materials placed on record, the Court sought the following details from the respondents to proceed with the writ Petition further:
(1) Whether the Government Orders were strictly complied with in its letter and spirit?
(2) How the Government is monitoring the implementation of the aforesaid Government Orders?
(3) Whether the maximum cost for Covid-19 treatment as directed by the Government in the aforesaid Government Orders is exhibited in a prominent manner in the private hospitals enabling the general public to know about the charges and the details of the authority to whom any complaint regarding the exorbitant charges and violations of the said Government Orders, can be lodged?
(4) What is the penal provision or penalty contemplated for violation of the aforesaid Government Orders and who is the authority monitoring the implementation of the aforesaid Government Orders?
(5) How many complaints have been received by the Government for violation of the said Government Orders and what is the action taken on the complaints, if any?
(6) Why not the Government maintain a separate portal giving the availability of the private hospitals and their bed capacity along with the fees structure in the portal, as maintained by Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, etc.,
(7) Whether under the Tamil Nadu Employees Health Insurance Scheme, the Government servants are entitled to take treatment for Covid-19 in private hospitals?
“The Court appreciates the valuable services rendered by the Doctors, Nurses, all health workers and all other frontline workers during this Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, the receipt placed before the Court shows that exorbitant charges have been collected by some hospitals, even during this difficult time, which cannot be permitted. The hospitals are taking advantage of the Covid-19 Pandemic situation, it appears, making use of it to collect exorbitant charges”, the order read.
The Court has scheduled the next hearing on May 12, 2021.