Five private hospitals in Delhi, which have been slapped with fines of Rs 600 crore for failing to treat patients from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), despite being obliged to do so under the land allotment agreement, have said they will challenge the State government order.
The hospitals have been asked to deposit “unwarranted profits” by July 9, failing which further action will be initiated against them.
The penal directive comes in response to a 2007 petition, filed by Social Jurist, a legal aid organization, demanding that erring hospitals be fined.
The State government had allotted land to 43 private hospitals in Delhi at concessional rates on the condition that they would keep 10 per cent of their in-patient department capacity and 25 per cent of out-patient department capacity to treat EWS patients free of cost.
While some hospitals were admitting EWS patients for free, they were being charged for consultation and diagnostics.
Fortis Healthcare’s subsidiary Escort Heart Institute and Research Centre, which has received an order to deposit Rs 503.36 crore, said: “The management will challenge the same in the High Court of Delhi.”
Dr .Suvarsha Khanna, president, Dharamshila Cancer Foundation says the hospital will challenge the order in the Court.
“We have been offering free treatment to 25 per cent out-patient and 10 per cent in-patient departments. We are also offering subsidised services to many other patients who do not fall in EWS category but still require financial support,” Dr Khanna said.
The spokesperson for Max-Super Speciality Hospital told PTI, “We believe the order is unfair to us; we stand fully committed to discharging all our obligations towards economically weaker sections (EWS). While we study the order in detail, we will prefer an appeal against this order in the appropriate forum.”
The notification was issued to five of the 43 hospitals — Max Super Specialty Hospital (Saket), Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Shanti Mukand Hospital, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital and Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute — that were in complete violation of the agreement.
On November 15, 2002, the Delhi High Court had passed its first order in a PIL petition filed by Social Jurist, stating that private hospitals were obliged to adhere to the land allotment conditions and that unwarranted profits be recovered from the hospitals violating the conditions.
The court had stated that EWS patients were to be provided “free admission, bed, medication, treatment, surgery and nursing facility, consumables and non-consumables. The hospitals charging any money from such patients shall be liable to be proceeded against in accordance with the law.”
“There is history to this fine being implemented. The Court had appointed a committee in 2007 to calculate the notional loss to the State government caused by hospitals violating the lease agreement norms. We are just implementing the court’s orders that should have been done much earlier,” said Dr Tarun Seem, Delhi Health Secretary.
Majority of these hospitals now partially comply with these conditions. These fines are for the violations in the past, added Dr Seem.
“The court order states that money recovered from the hospitals should go into a pool for treatment of poor patients in government hospitals. We had been submitting reports, form time to time, in the court and informing that certain hospitals were in complete violation of the norms,” said Ashok Agarwal, lawyer and petitioner.
Mr Agarwal is also a member of the court-appointed monitoring and special committee.
“We have audited accounts of 40 hospitals and notices were issued to them. Their objections were examined; personal hearing was granted to these hospitals and now a final order has been issued. This should serve as a warning for all private hospitals,” Mr Agarwal said.