The Supreme Court on Friday has sought Centre’s reply on PILs seeking subsidised or free coronavirus treatment in private hospitals. The plea asked not all the hospitals but those private or charitable hospitals, who have been allotted lands at confessional rates, should treat some patients for free. Citing previous rulings which asked charitable hospitals to treat patients for free, the SC also sought private hospitals’ reply on charging “Ayushman Bharat” rates before adjourning the hearing for two weeks.
As the SC stressed on government’s help for patients, the Centre submitted that it is doing its best for the lowest strata of the society. The Solicitor General argued that the Ayushman Bharat scheme has been devised with identified categories of beneficiaries, and all people who can’t afford treatment are covered under it.
Meanwhile, hospital associations also highlighted their troubles against allegations of charging exorbitant fees by the petitioners. The Healthcare Federation of India told the SC that with the Ayushman Bharat scheme being highly discounted, private hospitals were already experiencing a 60-70% fall in revenue as patients weren’t visiting. An association of hospitals told about the takeover of private hospitals by state governments for Covid-19 treatment and claimed that none of the private hospitals made profits.
However, petitioners have urged the central government to stand with the citizens. They also claimed that Covid-19 treatment was largely inaccessible due to prohibitive costs, and wanted the private sector to rise above profit-making during a pandemic.