Overcharging by hospitals: Bombay HC says ‘make them pay COVID patients’

Tells Maharashtra government to set up a redressal panel to address grievances against private hospitals.

private hospitals, Tamil Nadu, coronavirus, COVID-19, coronavirus cure, ICU
The petitioner told the court that though the state issued a notification to prevent hospitals from overcharging patients, absence of redressal system has made such guarantees look hallow and grossly insufficient.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday took cognizance of Covid-19 patients’ complaints against over-charging by private hospitals by suggesting that instead of shutting them down, the hospitals should be told to compensate the patients, if they have charged them in excess during treatment.

The Maharashtra government could set up a redressal commission, just the way West Bengal government did, to address grievances of overcharging by hospitals.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni made the observations while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Abhijeet Mangade, which stated that some private hospitals were overcharging patients – admitted for treatment of both Covid-19 and other ailments – for ancillary items, including PPE kits, gloves and N95 masks.

The petitioner told the court that though the state issued a notification to prevent hospitals from overcharging patients, absence of redressal system has made such guarantees look hallow and grossly insufficient.

“The state (West Bengal) where I come from had constituted a commission headed by a retired judge of the high court before the pandemic. It had specialist doctors from various fields and has done a good job in providing redress to grievances of patients,” Chief Justice Dipankar Datta said and suggested the Maharashtra government should consider a similar remedy in the state.

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The bench said that the state government has the power to revoke licences and registrations of hospitals flouting norms. However, in view of the pandemic, the court said, closing down hospitals would not be a viable option. “Instead, ask the hospitals to compensate patients,” the court said.

The High Court asked the petitioner to file a fresh plea seeking inclusion of PPE kits under the Essential Commodities Act.

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