'Poor patients denied free treatment at private hospitals'

 The Delhi government has received 73 complaints since April 15 from the poorer patients who have been denied free treatment at 44 private hospitals.

These allegations include being denied admission in the indoor patient department (IPD), refused treatment at outdoor patient department (OPD) and being charged for free medicines at the private hospitals.

Most of these complaints are against Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj in East Delhi and Jaipur Golden Hospital, Rohini in north-west Delhi. “The majority of complaints are against Max Hospital and Jaipur Golden, which turn away patients in spite of having vacant beds,” said a source in Directorate of Health Services (DHS). 

The DHS website offers a direct link to the real-time data that shows the free bed status in the private hospitals. Under the guidelines of DHS, all hospitals are required to show the free bed status in conspicuous locations in their premises.

“My mother is suffering from kidney ailment. Though the board showed the vacancy status of beds as 33, we were turned away. So I registered my complaint with  DHS. The way hospital authorities speak to us is also intolerable. I am sure this is not the case with patients who pay for treatment,” said a 54-year-old man, who was turned away from a hospital in Tughlakabad.

The private hospitals have to reserve 10 per cent of IPDs and 25 per cent of OPDs for patients of EWS (Economically weaker sections) category.

“While analysing the complaints we found that in many cases the patients are also accomplices in the cases. For instance, they do not show their BPL cards during admission and claim free treatment later. Also, if a patient needs to be admitted in the ICU ward, the hospital’s quota of admitting patients under the EWS  category might be already over. So we cannot blame the hospital authorities in these cases,” said a DHS top official. 

Currently, those earning below Rs 8,554 would constitute the EWS category. Patients are required to submit self affidavit forms declaring income at the time of admission.“We address the genuine complaints by calling both the parties — the hospital authorities and patients to our office and resolving the issue through a dialogue,” added the official.

Earlier, it was mandatory for 49 private hospitals built on land allocated by the government on concessional rates to provide free treatment to a certain percentage of EWS patients. 

However, in a major High Court ruling, four hospitals — Moolchand Khairati Ram Trust, St Stephen’s Hospital, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research and Foundation for Applied Research in Cancer were exempted from doing so.

Later, the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital contended that it has no obligation to provide free treatment either as it is built on land which was given at market rate. “Other 10 hospitals also want to follow suit. We will appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict,” said the official.

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