The Supreme Court
recently criticized Delhi's big private hospitals for their exorbitant charges
and said that they are acting like star hotels, besides not keeping their
promise of treating the poor - free of cost.
A bench comprising of
Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik said, "You got the land at a very
cheap rate from the government because of this promise. If you admit a poor
patient but ask him to pay for everything, it is not free treatment."
They gave the
hospitals two weeks to come up with a comprehensive
to give the poor and middle class people free, but effective
This was in response
to the hospitals' move against the Delhi
High Court's directive
them to fulfill their promise of providing the poor with free treatment.
The apex court stayed
the Delhi HC's order but it warned that it would cancel the stay if the hospitals failed to meet the two-week
deadline to submit their plan.
Mukul Rohatgi, counsel
for the hospitals, said that the cost of treatment and medicines have
skyrocketed and that most hospitals would go out of business if the poor were
given free treatment.
The court brushed aside
the argument put forward
by the counsel for big hospitals. "It is not a hotel that your doctor will
come, just say hello to the patient and then charge for everything. What is the
fun in admitting poor patients in free beds and charging them exorbitant money.
They are not beggars. They are entitled to free treatment as it is their land
which has been given to you," the bench remarked.
Schools and private
hospitals in Delhi are provided with public land at cheap prices, under the
condition that one-fourth of beds and seats would be ear-marked for the
economically -challenged. However the beneficiaries have failed to keep their
The steep fees of the private hospitals
drew sharp remarks -- "Do you know the price difference between a
government hospital and a private hospital even for a CT scan? Unless you have
a charitable attitude, the medical treatment will be meaningless. It is
happening in educational sector. Everything is done only for commercial gains,
nothing for charity," the judges remarked.
understand some very costly treatment being subsidized for poor patients. But,
how can you charge for basic treatments. How can you ask for money from poor
patients for x-ray, CT scan and blood tests? These basic treatments must be
given free of cost otherwise the free bed concept will be meaningless,"
the judges observed.
Dharamshila Hospital, a super specialty
cancer hospital in Delhi, which is one of the petitioners, had earlier said
that it was not possible to give free drugs and disposables to 25% of the OPD
and 10% of the indoor patients as has been directed by the Delhi HC. While
pleading its case the hospital remarked that "even government hospitals
like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are not providing free
medicines and consumables."
Dharamshila's counsel remarked that if
forced, the super specialty hospital would have no choice but to shut down its
The court was not
unconvinced by the private hospitals' counter arguments and has posted the case
for further hearing on July 25.
hospitals which challenged the Delhi HC and moved the apex court against the HC
order included Jaipur Golden Hospital, Escorts Heart Institute, Bhagwati
Hospital, Balaji Action Medical Institute, Devki Devi Foundation, Deepak
Memorial Hospital and Sunder Lal Jain Hospital.