A doctor treats a patient infected with black fungus
A doctor treats a patient infected with black fungus

In a significant development, the Maharashtra government on Monday told the Bombay High Court bench at Aurangabad that patients suffering from mucormycosis or black fungus, would be given free treatment at state-run hospitals. The state also told the court that it would cap what private hospitals could charge patients. The high court, while accepting the statement, has ordered private hospitals not to come up with ‘astronomical bills’ for the same.

A bench of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and Bhalachandra Debadwar was hearing a suo motu petition pertaining to Covid-19 crisis in the Marathwada region. At an earlier hearing, the bench had taken cognizance of the spurt in mucormycosis cases and the issues related to the disease.

On Monday when the matter was called, the state prosecutor told the bench that it had been decided to include coverage for mucormycosis under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojna (MJPJAY), that provides free treatment to poor people.

“There would be a capping on the expenses for mucormycosis treatment by private hospitals and they will be instructed not to raise astronomical bills,” the prosecutor said while furnishing an eight-page chart reflecting the rates for treatment of black fungus.

The bench was further told that around 130 hospitals have been identified across Maharashtra for treating the disease and that all the medicines for treatment would be made available to the hospitals through civil surgeons of each district.

“The daily use consumption of the required medicines by the hospitals while treating mucormycosis patients will be monitored through the MJPJAY web portal,” the prosecutor submitted.

Having perused the papers on record and considering the submissions, the bench said that the state had indeed come up with a specific policy for treating mucormycosis patients free of cost.

“Notwithstanding the same, the identified private hospitals would be restrained from raising astronomical bills and the cost of treatment would be monitored by the rates mentioned in the chart,” the bench noted.

“We therefore, expect the state government to accord wide publicity to the decision so that the poorest of the poor, the illiterate and semi-literate and persons living in remote and tribal areas would become aware of these facilities,” the bench ordered.

This, the bench opined, “would prevent unscrupulous elements (hospitals) from fleecing poor and ignorant people with large bills” which would prevent them from being able to afford the treatment on mucormycosis.

“Needless to state the list of hospitals identified for such treatment and through which the medicines would be made available, should also be given wide publicity, so that the patients do not land in the wrong hospital for availing the treatment,” the bench added.

The bench then enquired about the current availability of the requisite medicines and injections needed to treat mucormycosis, for which the state prosecutor sought time to respond.

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