The Court asked the State if it could take any action against private institutions that overcharged COVID-19 patients.
The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government on Thursday if there existed a grievance redressal mechanism in the State for citizens to complain if they are overcharged for COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals and nursing homes.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation seeking that the State fix a maximum rate that private hospitals and nursing homes can charge for PPE kits.
In the previous hearing, the State had told the court that while it had fixed a charge limit for beds and ancillary items including PPE kits for 80% of beds, private hospitals and nursing homes were permitted to charge their own rates for the remaining 20% for treatment of both COVID and non COVID patients.
The State government had said at the time that it could not take over private hospitals completely.
On Thursday, however, petitioner Abhijeet Mangade urged the court to direct the State to fix the maximum limit for charges for PPE kits for the remaining beds as well.
The court then asked the State if it could take any action against private institutions that overcharged COVID-19 patients.
“Even if these are private hospitals, the State grants them registration. If needed, you can cancel their registration, then why can’t action be taken if they overcharge?” the bench said.
It however, added that cancelling registrations might prove counterproductive since the State was already facing a dearth of COVID-19 treatment facilities.
“In the state where I come from (West Bengal), there were similar complaints prior to COVID-19 of hospitals overcharging patients,” CJ Datta said.
“Thereafter, a statutory commission headed by a retired high court judge and some doctors was constituted. It is performing quite well,” he said.
The court suggested that the State think about a similar grievance redressal mechanism, or if a mechanism already existed, then to ensure its implementation, it said.
The court disposed of the PIL and thanked Mr. Mangade for “bringing such an important issue before the court”.