In a notice issued by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, five of the top private hospitals in Delhi have been ordered to deposit around Rs 600 crore as fine for denying treatment to the poor. The hospitals that have been ordered to pay the fine are Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Max Super Specialty Hospital (Saket), Shanti Mukand Hospital, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital and Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute. As per the government order, these hospitals are guilty of denying treatment to the poor. These hospitals were allotted land at concessional rates with the condition that they should provide free treatment to the poor. However, these hospitals have failed to do so, say government officials.
Dr Hem Prakash, additional director (EWS) of the Delhi government, has said that the action has been initiated because these hospitals have not abided by the conditions set out for them. He said that these hospitals are required to pay the Rs 600 fine within one month, failing which further action would be taken against them. He added that earlier these hospitals were asked to explain their failure to treat the poor, but since they have not responded, they will now have to pay the Rs 600 fine, which is being technically referred to as ‘unwarranted profits’.
Talking about the details, Prakash said that action can also be taken against other hospitals. He pointed out that 43 private hospitals in Delhi were allotted land at concessional rates with the condition that they would utilize 10% of their in-patient department capacity and 25% of out-patient department capacity for providing free treatment to the poor. This condition has apparently not been met, which has prompted the Delhi government to fine these hospitals.
These hospitals were given land at concessional rates between the year 1960 and 1990. The amount of fine has been calculated based on the time between the commencement of these hospitals and March 22, 2007. This was the day when the High Court had passed its order for implementation of free treatment to the poor, based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
The hospitals, however, have their own story to tell. For example, Fortis healthcare Limited, the owner of Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre Limited (EHIRCL), has confirmed the receipt of the government notice, but it is in no hurry to pay the fine. According to EHIRCL, the government order appears legally flawed and unjustified. As a result, the organization has decided to challenge the order in the High Court or any other relevant authority so that justice can be delivered. Similar statements were provided by other hospitals as well, which puts a question mark on the applicability of the Delhi government order.