The Kerala High Court on Monday berated private hospitals for charging very high rates for Covid-19 treatment, saying that citizens should not be “looted in trying times”, reported the Hindustan Times.
A bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kausar Edappagath took up the matter suo motu after a video of a man narrating his woes of getting treatment at a private hospital in Kochi went viral on social media.
The High Court said they had come across several instances, where patients were charged as much as Rs 22,000 for personal protection kits, calling them “unconscionable billings”, according to the Hindustan Times. “Rs 22,000 for PPE kits, our humble kanji [rice gruel or porridge] is charged Rs 1,300. And Dolo is charged Rs 30-40 each,” the court added. “We won’t allow this loot.”
During the proceedings, the Kerala government informed the High Court that it had registered a case against the hospital mentioned in the video. The state also informed the bench that it had capped prices for Covid-related services in private hospitals of the state.
The state attorney said that 50% of beds in government and private hospitals, Employees’ State Insurance hospitals, and medical colleges were reserved for Covid treatment, reported Live Law.
In general wards of National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers-accredited hospitals (NABH hospitals) and non-NABH hospital, daily rates would be fixed at Rs 2,910 and 2,645 respectively, the attorney added.
The rates, applicable to persons who were not covered by the government’s Karunya Scheme or government sponsorship, would be applicable in nursing homes and private hospitals, according to the new fee structure. The rates would be inclusive of oxygen, medicine and drugs, nursing and boarding charges.
However, high-end investigations such as CT scans would be excluded from the package. The rates of PPE kits, medications and such other tests would be governed by the Maximum Retail Price or any other notification or order regulating the same as and when published, the state government said.
Besides, district medical officers and authorities under the Kerala Clinical Establishments Act and Rules would operate as grievance redressal officers who would investigate cases where private hospitals are charging unusually high fees, the state government told the court.
The High Court said it was immensely pleased with the state government’s submissions, and orally described the new order as “fantastic”.
“We have examined the GO [Government’s order] very closely,” the court said. “We are more than pleased with the government’s order...We find these rates to be extremely reasonable.”
Earlier on Monday, the Madras High Court had also observed that hospitals seem to be taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis in the country, by charging very high fees from patients and their families. The High Court asked the Centre and state government to file a response detailing ways this could be controlled.