Hyderabad: Taking a serious note of private hospitals that had obtained huge parcels of lands through subsidy under the condition of providing free treatment to poor people in the state, the Telangana High Court said that the government can cancel the lease of those hospitals and even take possession of the said land.
The court was hearing a PIL filed against Apollo and Basavatarakam Cancer Hospitals operating in the city. The court also expressed anguish as private hospitals were fleecing patients and even poor people during the pandemic.
A retired employee had filed a PIL before the High Court seeking action against the hospitals for violating the lease norms to treat poor patients for free and charging exorbitant sums from them. Dealing with the petition, the Bench of Chief Justice R.S Chauhan and Justice Vijayasen Reddy expressed anger at the hospitals for demanding lakhs from patients to hand over the dead bodies. “There have been several reports in the media regarding this menace. Violating the state government orders and the recommended fee norms, private hospitals are charging more from the public,” pointed the Bench. It also directed the said hospitals and the state to file a counter on 13 August.
The petitioner informed the court that the Apollo Hospital had received 30 acres of land at Rs. 8,500 per acre in 1985. At the time of sanctioning the land, the government had mandated the hospital to provide 15 per cent beds to poor people. As per the urban land ceiling norms, though the hospital is in possession of 1.21 lakh square meters land in excess, the government had issued a GO exempting the hospital from the ceiling. During the time the government had made it clear that the hospital should provide free treatment to the poor. A 1,000-bed multi-speciality hospital has been constructed on the land but it is not providing free treatment to the poor. Officials who are responsible for ensuring this are afraid of the influential management, the petitioner said.
The petitioner also informed the court that the Cancer hospital had acquired 7.35 acres of prime land at Banjara Hills in 1989 on the condition that 40 per cent of out-patients would be treated for free. While the hospital never provided free treatment to anyone, it has received several exemptions from the governments since its inception. This hospital is owned by an influential political family and officials concerned are unwilling to initiate any action against the violators.
The petitioner further urged the court to direct the government and the hospitals to provide 50 per cent beds to poor patients in view of the spike in COVID-19 cases and also said that a policy should be brought in to make it mandatory for the hospitals to treat poor patients for free.