Bombay HC suggests payout, panel to redress patient grievances against pvt hospitals for overcharging

Observing that the state government and civic authorities have the “ultimate power to cancel registrations” of private hospitals and nursing homes found guilty of overcharging Covid-19 patients admitted to “regulated beds”, Bombay high court on Thursday however, said shutting them would not be a viable option during the pandemic times with inadequate medical facilities. But a bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Kulkarni suggested whether “compensation” to aggrieved patients could be a remedy.
On august 31, the state issued a notification capping rates of PPE to Rs 1200 for ICU and RS 600 for general wards.
The HC also mentioned that the state could form a redressal or regulatory mechanism through a commission similar to the one set up by the West Bengal government as it has been effective in addressing grievances of overcharging by hospitals. The bench asked advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, “what is the machinery here.’’
The verbal suggestions were during the hearing of a public interest litigation filed by advocate Abhijeet Mangade seeking directions to cap prices of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits in private hospitals and nursing homes. Kumbhakoni had said that PPE kit prices depend on their quality and use. The ones for doctors and surgeons treating Covid patients are of a higher quality and would cost more, those in non-covid hospitals may cost less.
The Chief Justice said to the state, “you are also aware that some private hospital are violating your guidelines with impunity. Compensation could be the best relief.” Added Justice Kulkarni, “The law has to be in tune with the times and necessity is said to be the mother of invention…these are necessary times.”
Mangade said the price discrepancy cannot vary so much and cited example of one patient being charged over Rs 1.3 lakh for a PPE kits in a 20-day in a private hospital at 11 kits per day.
Referring to a redressal mechanism as an option to streamline patient grievance the bench observed, “If the entire thing is institutionalized there is much more teeth.”
The bench also informed the AG that “All government counsel must be give copies of the notifications. so that they can make submissions based on them in court.”
The HC disposing of the PIL during the hearing via video-conferencing said, “We record that the petition stands disposed of will give reasons in the chamber.”

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