The Delhi High Court Thursday ruled that all private hospitals, built on subsidised government land, must treat the poor free of cost both at their indoor and outdoor facilities or face contempt of court proceedings.
While holding free treatment to the poor "obligatory" at hospitals built on subsidised land, a division bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice H.R. Malhotra said the hospitals are obliged to provide free treatment upto 25 percent of their outdoor patients and 10 percent of their indoor patients.
"All the private hospitals are bound to abide by the recommendations of the Qureshi Committee recommendations in providing absolutely free treatment to the poor patients," the bench ruled.
Pronouncing the judgement on a public interest petition filed by a voluntary organization, Social Jurist, the court said, "Non-compliance of the directions would attract contempt of court."
"Free treatment means both consumable and non-consumable. No money should be charged from the poor patient, who are below the poverty line," the bench said categorically in its ruling.
The government and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) are at liberty to initiate action against the defaulting hospitals such as cancellation of lease deed, taking over of the hospitals and other punitive actions, the bench said in its 110-page order.
The DDA and the Land and Development Office (L&DO) of Delhi government had allotted 70 plots to various trusts and societies to build hospitals, out of which only 26 are operational, the bench noted in its order.
The government had submitted the Quereshi Committee report, which recommended forcing the private hospitals to provide free treatment to 10 per cent of the indoor patients and 25 per cent of the outdoor patients.
The Quereshi committee was formed following a high court order on December 13, 2006 and was mandated to frame a policy on providing free treatment in private hospitals.
It was immaterial whether or not a clause for providing free treatment was mentioned in the allotment letter, the court ruled adding that the hospitals were bound to provide free treatment to the poor in lieu of the land given to them at a subsidised rate.
"No right existed without obligations. The hospitals could not claim their rights over the land without conceding to their obligations," said the bench justifying the claim of the government to enforce the clause in lease deeds.
The court formed a committee comprising Director General of Health Services (DGHS), advocate Ashok Agrawal and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital's (RML) medical superintendent to supervise the implementation of the directions of the court.
It has been directed to make periodic visits to the private hospitals to ensure implementation of the directions for free treatment.
All government hospitals in the capital are directed to set up a referral unit headed by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and medical officer-on-duty to refer a patient to any of the private hospitals for treatment, if the hospital does not have the technology or bed.