The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed the Delhi government to issue a fresh order for capping the charges being levied by private hospitals and nursing homes for treatment of Covid-19 patients, after holding deliberations with the administrators of a cross-section of health institutes and their associations on the issue of pricing to ensure rationalisation of the charges.
The division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said it wants the issue to be taken on “top priority” and took note of the documents showing that even though package charges have been fixed by the hospitals, they are taking money “over and above” from patients under different heads. It said amicus curiae senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao will be part of the meeting to be convened by Delhi’s health secretary.
The government in June 2020 had issued a circular capping the prices for treatment of Covid-19 patients in private hospitals. Advocate Abhay Gupta told the court there may not be complaints of overcharging but social media is filled with grievances that hospitals “are charging anything” and that the government circular of June 2020 was not being followed. The government said the circular was not implemented in the sense of taking coercive action against hospitals and there has been no complaint from anyone to the authorities.
The court said the situation on the ground cannot be ignored merely because there are no complaints and told the government that on May 7 it had asked it to examine whether the June 2020 circular needs revision keeping in view the huge surge of cases. “It is a matter of pricing. It is not an easy issue but somebody has to do this exercise so that there is transparency,” the bench said.
Gupta told the court the earlier circular didn’t specify any consequences if any hospital fails to adhere to the government order. “The (Delhi) government could take a cue from a circular issued by the Kerala government. They have laid down as to how you have to follow it, publicise it, and if you fail to adhere to it, what are the consequences,” he submitted.