The Kerala High Court suggested that the state government should consider taking over 50% of all hospital beds in the state for COVID-19 patients, Bar and Bench reported. This can be done for a short period so that adequate and affordable treatment is available for all, said a bench headed by Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagth.
They asked the state, "Can you take over unused hospitals, perhaps 50% of all hospital beds in Kerala? This is only for a short period, one or two months." The court was hearing a petition on the pricing of treatment at private hospitals.
All infected persons should be able to access the nearest hospital, even if it is a "five star" one, the court said. Underlining the importance of non-discrimination in access to public facilities, the court said, "Does not matter whether hospital is 5-star. If I am ill, I must be given best medical treatment in the nearest hospital... The right to health is not defined by private investment ... we are in the context of a public health pandemic."
The bench also advised the state to take cue from an order passed by the Andhra Pradesh government on the price of treatment at private hospitals. The court will hear the matter again on May 10.
The state government had earlier asked private hospitals in the states to reserve 50% of its beds for COVID-19 patients. The state, which has 3.75 lakh active cases of COVID-19 has been reporting more than 35,000 daily cases in recent days. Hospital beds across the state have been used up and the private hospitals, which have about 20% to 25% of its beds for COVID-19 patients, had reported being full days ago. COVID-19 patients in the state are accommodated at first line treatment centres if they have milder symptoms, and domiciliary centres if they only need home isolation but do not have the facility for it.