HC calls Telangana govt action on COVID-19 hospitals unwarranted amid a pandemic

Pulling up the state for not capping COVID-19 treatment rates despite the court's direction, Chief Justice Hima Kohli said, “You’re lucky we haven’t said it is contempt of court."
A bird's eye view of the Telangana High Court
A bird's eye view of the Telangana High Court
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The Telangana High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Hima Kohli and B Vijaysen Reddy directed Dr G Srinivas Rao, the Director of Public Health and Family Welfare of Telangana, to ensure that a government order is released regarding capping the rates of COVID-19 treatment in hospitals. The Director assured the court that he would submit a proposal to the government regarding the same. The Chief Justice mentioned, “This is gross non-compliance to our orders.” Chief Justice Hima Kohli said that they’re (the government) lucky that they haven’t said it is contempt of court.

The Telangana High Court questioned Rao over the need to revoke licenses of COVID-19 hospitals during a pandemic. The court observed, “It is unwarranted amid a pandemic.” Justice B Vijaysen Reddy noted that many of the hospitals that are on the list have been doing good work in the last one year. The Chief Justice had said in the last hearing as well, that it is good that action is being taken, but that such drastic measures of revoking their license needs to find a logical conclusion. The court was of the opinion that cracking the whip too hard won't ensure that patients who have been fleeced will even get back their money as the worst has already happened.

Chief Justice Kohli directed Rao to revoke the ban on treated COVID-19 patients if the hospitals fall back on track. To this, the Director told the court that their licenses were revoked temporarily and that if they fall back on track, the ban would be revoked.  

The bench also observed that patients were being overcharged by hospitals and asked whether the money was returned to the patients and their families. The Director told the court that he did not have the details about such incidents in the second wave, however, he informed the court that in the first wave, Rs 3 crore was returned to patients. Rao also told the court that negotiations are underway with several hospitals and some of whom have agreed to repay the amount and fall back in line have not been penalised.

The court asked Rao if it would be possible to appoint nodal officers at corporate hospitals as a mechanism to check overcharging by hospitals. The Director responded by saying that a mechanism is already in place and that people are actively using the WhatsApp number provided by the government and social media to report complaints of overcharging. 

It was brought to the notice of the court that though the state government claims the data of beds is real-time, the beds in hospitals whose licences have been revoked are also being reflected on the government’s website. Rao assured the court that he would reach out to the concerned authorities to update the changes.

In response to the question about steps being taken to ensure preparedness for the third wave, Rao informed the court that the Cabinet has decided that all private hospitals will have to construct an oxygen plant in their premises only then their licences will be renewed. It was also informed to the court that the state government is already taking steps to increase the number of oxygen plants in the state.  

The court directed Rao to submit a blueprint with all details about the plans of the government and the steps being taken to improve infrastructure, facilities, drugs, etc to be mentioned with details about when it would be completed. The Director requested more time, following which the next hearing was posted to June 10.  

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