Can't control pvt hospitals but told to cap bed charges: BMC tells HC on charging of sky-high rates

Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has told the Bombay High Court that it does not have any control or authority over the financial management of private hospitals. However, to put an end to the continuous complaints of overcharging by private hospitals while treating Covid-19 patients, they have been asked to cap their bed and ICU charges, the civic body claimed.

This comes after an affidavit was filed by Dr Padmaja Kesarkar, executive health officer, BMC, in response to a petition highlighting the exorbitant rates, charged by private hospitals. The affidavit, filed through senior counsel Anil Sakhre, also states that capping of charges will not apply to medicine, radiology, pathology and personal protective equipment rates.

A bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta had last week sought to know the civic body's stand on the issue of overcharging by private hospitals. The matter was raised by one Sarika Singh through her public interest litigation, highlighting the "callous attitude" of private hospitals towards Covid19 patients. After detailing the measures undertaken by the civic body to contain the virus, the affidavit stated, "As far as the issue of overcharging is concerned, the BMC does not have any control or authority over the financial management of private hospitals."

"However, in the interest of public at large, the corporation has issued a circular allowing private nursing homes and hospitals to provide isolation facilities for Covid-19 patients, wherein specifically an appeal had been made to all private medical facilities and practitioners to make available the necessary facilities to provide health care and treatment to Covid-19 patients," the affidavit added.

Further, the civic body stated that it has been alive to the possibility of private hospitals charging exorbitant rates from patients. "In order to address the issue, a specific notice was issued in April to all private entities that are providing isolation facilities for Covid-19 patients. This notice calls upon all the private nursing homes and hospitals to cap their charges for Bed, ICU (with and without ventilator) and high dependency unit," the affidavit pointed out.

As per the capping order, no private hospital can charge more than Rs 2,600 (per day) for a bed in the general ward. Further, private hospitals are only allowed to charge Rs 5,100 and Rs 6,500 for ICU beds, without and with ventilators, respectively. However, the capping is limited only to bed and consultation charges and not medicines and other miscellaneous heads.

"But the private hospitals and nursing homes will be allowed to charge medicine charges, pathology charges, radiology charges and other consumables at actual bills," the affidavit stated further. The bench led by CJ Datta is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on Friday.

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