Cut costs at private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, Kerala HC tells state

The court observed that the state has the important role of controlling profiteering by stakeholders during this time of crisis.
Kerala High Court Building
Kerala High Court Building
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Amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases in Kerala, the High Court has directed the state government to take measures to cut costs at private hospitals for the treatment of the disease. The court was hearing a petition that sought to reduce the exorbitant rates charged by private hospitals, and to introduce a universal rate. The state government has been asked to discuss the matter with administrations of the hospitals and respond with its suggestions on May 4.

The court, in the order for the same, observed that the state has the important role of controlling and containing profiteering by any stakeholders during the pandemic, including private hospitals. "This can certainly be done only by the state. When we hear the petitioner, we are equally cognisant that the role of the state in regulating costs in private hospitals is fraught with problems-- both legal and procedural," Justice Devan Ramachandran observed in the order.

The court also noted that the COVID-19 situation at present is more grave than that of July 2020, when the court was told by State Attorney KV Sohan that the government had issued an order regulating costs of treatment in private hospitals and that stipulations were in full force.

Kerala on Thursday recorded 38,607 cases with the test positivity rate standing at 24.5%.

"The new wave inexorably brings with it memories of the experience of the first one, last year. When the pandemic first hit us, a sense of anamorphic confusion and brooding uncertainty befell us. Ordinary and hard-working citizens were torn between the social and emotional fallout of distancing protocols and lockdowns, on one hand, and by the excruciating load of medical treatment cost on the other, which spurred several states to bring notifications/ orders capping and regulating such last year. When we confront the new wave of the pandemic, the impact is a grave one, if not more," the court further observed.

"We read a remark of a patient somewhere, that it's easier to survive the shock of the disease than what is inflicted by the hospital bills," the order read.

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