At least 27 public interest groups have asked Delhi government to remove the 60 per cent cap on the number of private hospital beds on which fixed COVID-19 treatment rates are applicable. "The rate cap should be applicable for all persons accessing treatment through private hospitals, and who are not covered under any laws or schemes that guarantee free treatment," a joint representation made by the groups to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal has said.
The groups pointed out that the government order fixing rates of COVID-19 treatment on a limited number of private hospital beds fails to provide adequate financial protection to all patients. "The right to health, as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, provides that no one must be deprived of necessary treatment due to economic disability," it said.
The letter pointed out that Delhi is at a crucial stage of the pandemic where the public health system is stretched to capacity in providing treatment for COVID-19 patients. In order to successfully curb fatalities and curtail the spread of the disease, the groups called for policies that are geared towards ensuring comprehensive and affordable treatment and care for all who need it.
The group complains that there are inconsistencies between the government order and the circular that operationalised it later. "The order provides that rate caps will be applicable on beds up to 60 percent of the total hospital bed capacity, whereas the circular has calculated the number of beds that should be charged as per the fixed rates on the basis of 60 per cent of the COVID-19 beds, thereby reducing the number of beds which can be availed under fixed charges," the group points out.
According to the group, the circular has not provided the specific number of beds that will be made available in each hospital under each category such as isolation bed, ICU bed without ventilator and ICU bed with ventilator. This, they say, provides leeway for private hospitals to reserve the more expensive and profitable beds, that is, ICU beds with and without ventilator support, to charge patients as per their schedule of charges.
The group also alleges that the government circular completely fails to account for 10 per cent beds that hospitals, which have received land at concessional rates, are mandated by law to provide free of cost to EWS patients. "This gives private hospitals discretion in implementing the policy regarding free EWS beds which could result in reducing the number of beds on which fixed rates are to apply. The ambiguity introduces needless challenges to the implementation and enforcement of the order fixing rates on hospital beds," they say.
The petition copies, which are also marked to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Dr V K Paul, member Niti Aayog, has been signed by organisations like All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH) and Campaign for Access to Affordable Medicines, Medical Devices and Diagnostics, India.