Gujarat High Court
Gujarat High Court
Litigation News

At any cost, private hospitals should not be permitted to demand exorbitant amounts for treatment of COVID-­19: Gujarat HC [Read Order]

"(This is not) the time to do business and earn profit. The medical services are the most essential services and in times like the present one, the private hospitals cannot demand lacs of rupees", the Court said.

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Gujarat High Court last week directed the state government to take necessary steps to regulate the exorbitant fees charged by private hospitals which treating COVID-19 patients.

The direction was passed by a Division Bench of justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh Vora while dealing with a suo motu PIL to monitor various issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Bench observed,

"At any cost, the private hospitals should not be permitted to demand exorbitant amount for the purpose of treatment of COVID­19 patients. These are difficult times and not the time to do business and earn profit. The medical services are the most essential services and in times like the present one, the private hospitals cannot demand lacs of rupees from a patient."
Gujarat High Court

In this regard, the Court held that the most important direction necessary to be issued to the State Government is to see that all the private hospitals across the city of Ahmedabad and also situated at the outskirts work out the modalities with respect to the fee structure. Therefore, the Court ordered,

"We hereby direct the State Government to address this issue with the persons concerned to ensure that an affordable level playing field for all private hospitals in Ahmedabad so as to make larger number of beds available for more and more patients. This requires to be done forthwith."

Gujarat High Court

Adding on, the Court observed that excessive charges in this critical war like situation when humanity is fighting for survival is absolutely unjustified and deserves to be deprecated.

"This is creating an unequal situation for the private hospitals in the city. When so many are clamouring for treatment, the exorbitant rates appear inhumane. Except for the very rich and affluent class of people, such hospitals remain out of reach for most patients. The treatment for this pandemic in this hard times even if offered by any private hospital must be reasonable and affordable", the Court said.

The Court further cautioned that if private hospitals do not refrain from demanding exorbitant amounts, then the Court would be compelled to take appropriate legal action against such hospitals including the cancellation of their license.

"If the private hospitals do not budge and are determined to demand exorbitant amount, then this Court will have to take appropriate legal action against such hospitals and the consequences may be quite bitter including cancellation of licence."
Gujarat High Court

Ensure maximum relief for migrant workers, the needy

Another important issue to be dealt with by the Court concerned the lack of food for migrant workers/ needy persons. It further observed that on account of the complete lockdown, services which were being rendered by the NGOs, charitable institutions and other volunteers had also come to a "grinding halt".

In view of the same, the Court has directed,

"We request the learned Advocate and the learned Government Pleader to take up this issue with the State authorities and see to it that even during the period of lockdown, some modalities should be worked out by virtue of which few selected and trustworthy NGOs, volunteers and charitable institutions can be asked to provide food to the poor and the needy."

Gujarat High Court

Further, citing the recent Karnataka High Court judgment, the Division Bench has directed the State government to look into issues such as transport for those migrant workers who wish to travel back to their home states.

On this aspect, the Bench has also urged the State to ascertain how their ticket fares would be levied/ paid up.

The Court reiterated that main focus should be to provide as much relief as possible to migrant labourers and the other members of the poor in order to ease their pain and suffering during this difficult time.

In this regard, it was also noted that, "this is not the time to educate the migrant workers, poor and the needy people of the concept of social distancing, etc. They will never be able to understand any such concept. They are not worried about the virus. They are worried about food."
"It would be very harsh to say that a person should not die because of COVID19, but no problem if he dies because of hunger. Therefore, the entire concentration should be to provide the maximum succour and relief to the migrant labourers and the other members of the poor and downtrodden class of society and ease their pain and suffering."
Gujarat High Court

This apart, the Court took on record the submissions made by the Government regarding steps stated to be in place to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, which included certain steps on the provision of food to the needy and the transport of migrant workers.

Addressing concerns raised before the Court earlier, the Bench has reiterated that the authorities should not restrain persons from moving during the lockdown for seeking non-COVID-19 medical care.

"If a person is ailing and requires immediate medical treatment, then the police should not restrain such a person from reaching to a particular hospital or a clinic of a private doctor. The police should exercise its discretion in this regard wisely and adopt a practical approach in this regard", the Court emphasised.

Morerover, the Court also sought certain information from the State government regarding the treatment of COVID-19 patients, i.e.,

  • Whether the serum potassium level test is being conducted?

  • Whether quality check or fluid penetration test for the PPE

    supplied to the doctors and nurses is undertaken?

  • Whether the senior Aneisthetist and the critical care specialist remains physically 24 X 7 in the ICU?

The matter will be heard next on May 22.

Read the order here:

GHC Order WPPIL 42 of2020 14.05.2020.pdf
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