Private hospitals can’t escape obligation for free treatment, court told

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) The Delhi High Court was Tuesday informed by the central government that big private hospitals, who got land at concessional rates in the city, “can’t escape the obligation” to provide free treatment to certain percentage of poor patients.

Appearing before a division bench of Justice Ravinder Bhatt and R.V. Easwar, central government’s counsel Jatan Singh told the court that providing treatment to the poor was one of the clauses in the lease deed due to which land was given to hospitals at a very cheap price.
It is mandatory for private hospitals, built on land allocated by the government on concessional rates, to provide 10 percent treatment to in patient department (IPD) and 25 percent to out patient department (OPD), said the counsel appearing for land and development Office of the central government.
“The policy of giving land at huge concessions to private hospitals has remained unchanged since 1949 with the basic premise that as a welfare state the government has a duty to work for poor section of the society,” Singh told the court.
The court further added: “Land was given in throwaway prices and in return, we are just asking to provide medical treatment to poor. The government allotted land to them in the heart of the city to achieve the best possible medical facilities to all the people, including poor.”
The private hospitals including Moolchand Hospital and St Stephens Hospital had moved the court challenging the central government’s order of incorporating a condition inserted in its lease deed for free treatment to the poor.
However, central government’s counsel told the court that the government has power to incorporate such condition on private hospitals, given land on concessional rates, “in public interest”.
The central government Feb 2, 2011 had amended the lease deed inserting a clause to provide 10 percent indoor and 25 percent outdoor treatment free of cost to poor patients as a quid pro quo for getting land at concessional rate.
The decision had came following the 2007 high court judgment which had earlier asked around 20 private hospitals here to give free treatment to poor as their lease deeds contained a provision to that effect.
The high court’s judgment had came on a PIL filed by NGO Social Jurist through advocate Ashok Aggarwal.
In 2011, the Supreme Court had also asked private schools to provide free treatment to poor.