Delhi govt fines private hospitals Rs 700 crore for no free treatment to poor

New Delhi: The Delhi government has asked five private hospitals in the city, including Fortis Escorts Heart Institute and Max Super Specialty Hospital (Saket), to deposit “unwarranted profits” of over Rs. 700 crore for refusing free treatment to the poor, the prime condition for land allotment lease, underscoring the scanty healthcare options available to the Capital’s economically weaker sections (EWS).

Government rules stipulate 10% of all patients admitted to private hospitals must be poor and treated free of cost if the institute has been given subsidised land.

In addition, 25% of all out-patient services must cater to poor people without charge and government hospitals can also refer their cases to these institutes.

The city administration’s Thursday order said the five hospitals flouted the rules despite getting subsidised land, invoking a March 2007 Delhi high court ruling that said private hospitals should be fined for earning profits from beds reserved for poor patients.

“These five hospitals have not abide by the conditions. We had earlier in December 2015, sent notices to these hospitals seeking their explanation as to why they failed to treat the poor and why they should not be fined. But none of them gave satisfactory replies so we initiated action against them,” said Dr Prakash.

But the hospitals disputed the order and said they were committed to treating poor patients. “We treat thousands of EWS patients every year and are extremely serious towards fulfilling our obligations. We will prefer an appeal against this order,” said the Devki Devi Foundation, the parent organisation of Saket’s Max hospital.

Fortis Healthcare’s subsidiary Escort Heart Institute and Research Centre has received an order to deposit Rs. 503.36 crore for non-compliance of conditions of land allotment lease.

Total 43 private hospitals in Delhi were allotted land at concessional rates on the condition that they will keep 10 per cent of their in-patient department capacity and 25 per cent of out-patient department capacity to treat EWS patients free of cost.

“There are liaison officers who ensure compliance in the hospitals. The occupancy has improved; around 60 -70% beds are usually occupied. However, there are a few hospitals who are regular defaulters,” a Delhi government official said.

The strict order comes after years of complaints of poor patients being shortchanged by private hospitals that rake up huge bills in medicines and doctors’ fees.

Apart from the 640, 239 additional beds are available for the poor at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital but rarely get used because patients have to pay for medicines and consumables.

“Around 50% of the cost of any treatment usually goes towards medicines and consumables, which the poor cannot afford,” the official said.