Taking note of the absence of a mechanism to keep a check on private hospitals from charging excessive fees, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered the Maharashtra government to explain how it proposes to regulate the fees to be charged by such hospitals in treating Covid and non-Covid patients.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere also said that the state cannot give 'unbridled' powers to the private hospitals to exploit the patients.
The bench was dealing with a PIL filed by one Abhijeet Mangade seeking directives to the state government to cap the prices of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits used by public and private hospitals in treating both Covid and non-Covid patients.
On Tuesday, when the matter came up for hearing, government counsel Nisha Mehra told the bench that 'flying squads' (special teams) have been formed to check if hospitals are charging excessively.
The bench asked Mehra if the state has fixed the rates of PPEs to be procured by hospitals, to which, she replied, "The state procures PPE kits for its own hospitals. Similarly, the BMC procures kits for its hospitals and the private hospitals too procure such kits for themselves."
"This means, you (state) have given unbridled powers to private hospitals to exploit patients," CJ Datta remarked.
At this, Mehra pointed out that the flying squads were in place to keep a check. However, she failed to point out if the squads have submitted any report till date to the state.
"You have the squads but what about regulation? What if some hospital violates the rules? Who is going to keep a check on that?" CJ Datta enquired.
With no positive response from the state, CJ Datta said, "It appears the state has not focused on this aspect yet. There must be a mechanism to regulate the prices of PPE kits and the hospitals too, so that patients aren't exploited,"
The bench, accordingly ordered Mehra to furnish a fresh affidavit spelling out the state's stand on this issue.