The Gujarat High Court has asked the state government to take necessary steps to regulate the “exorbitant” fees charged by private hospitals which are authorised to treat coronavirus patients.
The order was passed on Thursday by a division bench of Justices J B Pardiwala and Ilesh Vora which took suo motu (on its own) cognisance of news reports about various issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, including high cost of treatment in private hospitals.
The bench warned private hospitals against charging high amount for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The HC, in its ruling, noted that some private hospitals authorised by the government to treat coronavirus patients in Ahmedabad are charging fees “running in lakhs of rupees and an ordinary man will never be able to afford to avail adequate treatment from a private hospital”.
The bench directed the state government to ensure that private hospitals do not charge “exorbitant fees for the treatment of COVID-19 patients”.
Since state-run hospitals are almost full with COVID- 19 patients, the bench stressed that the government should authorise more private medical facilities to treat such cases.
The HC noted that fee structure of such private hospitals “should be regulated by the state government for the purpose of COVID-19 treatment”.
“These are difficult times and not the time to do business and earn profit. Medical services are the most essential service and private hospitals can not demand lakhs of rupees from a patient.
“Few private hospitals in Ahmedabad are demanding exorbitant fees running in lakhs of rupees. This is absolutely unjustified and deserves to be deprecated,” said the high court.
While asking the state to step in and “resolve the issue” immediately, the court even issued a warning to private hospitals.
The bench said “If private hospitals do not budge and continue to demand exorbitant amount, then this court will have to take legal action, including cancellation of licence”.
Gujarat, which had recorded 9,592 coronavirus cases and 586 deaths till May 14, is one of the states worst-hit by the viral infection.