The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to identify private hospitals where coronavirus patients could be treated for free or at a minimum cost, Live Law reported.

The top court was hearing a petition filed by a lawyer, Sachin Jain, who claimed that private hospitals in the country were commercially exploiting patients to make a “fortune out of their miseries” during the health crisis.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde asked why the private hospitals, who have been given land free of cost by the government, cannot treat patients for free, according to News18. “They have been given land either free of cost or at a very nominal cost,” Bobde said. “These private charitable hospitals should treat them for free.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the cost of treatment in private hospitals across the country ought to be minimum and charitable trusts may do it on no-profit basis. “You identify all those hospitals and find out,” Bobde said. “You try to find out and see whether these hospitals can charge minimum cost or even free of cost.”

The matter was posted for hearing after a week. Last month, the Supreme Court sought the response of the Centre to regulate the cost of coronavirus treatment and adjourned the matter. Jain sought a direction that the private hospitals, who are functioning on public land, treat coronavirus patients pro-bono or on a no-profit basis.

“Medical treatment owes a constitutional duty to treat the have-nots and a person cannot be refused treatment merely on the ground that he is not in a position to afford the fee payable for such expensive treatment,” the petition read. “It is a matter of grave concern that a large section of people in India still do not possess any insurance cover and are also not benefited under any government health scheme.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the country’s nodal body for coronavirus testing, on Monday has removed the price cap of Rs 4,500 for the real-time polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR tests. The decision was taken due to availability of indigenous testing kits and other supplies in India now.

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