The Bombay High Court on Tuesday expressed its displeasure over the Maharashtra government not having a proper mechanism in place to restrain private hospitals from overcharging patients for personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. The court directed the state to come up with a concrete mechanism and inform it about it within two weeks.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere were hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Abhijeet Mangade that stated that some private hospitals were overcharging patients – admitted for treatment of both Covid-19 and other ailments – for ancillary items, including PPE kits, gloves and N95 masks. While the government was procuring PPE kits for Rs 378 each, the hospitals were overcharging for the same, Mangade added.
He submitted that though the state had issued a circular on May 21, putting a cap on charges that private hospitals could recover from patients, the hospitals continue to charge exorbitant amounts for PPE kits, besides for regular treatment.
Assistant Government Pleader Nisha Mehra said that municipal corporations and district collectors have been empowered to take action against overcharging private hospitals and notices had been issued against hospitals found to be in default. She added that the authorities had also directed the hospitals to refund the excess amounts charged to the patients.
The state said that it had issued a circular on August 7, constituting flying squads to visit private hospitals to ensure that they did not overcharge.
After the bench inquired about the visits and actions taken so far by the flying squads, Mehra sought time for two weeks to take instructions from the state and respond to the same.
The court observed that the government did not pay attention to the aspect of overcharging in its May 21 circular. “We expect the state to apply its mind on the same and come up with the proper mechanism to address concerns raised by the petitioner,” it said. Directing Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to appear before it on the next hearing, the court posted the matter for September 8.
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