Court asks state govt about subsidies given to private hospitals for treating poor patients free of cost
Hyderabad: Private hospitals in Hyderabad have come under scrutiny after the high court asked the Andhra Pradesh government to submit a list of subsidies they were offered for treating a certain number of poor patients free of cost. Two social workers ¬ M Sambasiva Rao and M Bharath Bhushan ¬ have filed a public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the slow progress in surgeries on poor children with heart ailments. The petition is directed at Apollo Hospital, Care Hospital and Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), the city’s best known hospitals. But on Tuesday, a bench comprising acting Chief Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice R Subhash Reddy asked M Dilip Rao, counsel for the petitioners, to include the name of another hospital, Medicity, in the PIL. The government had allocated land in prime localities, such as Banjara Hills, and granted exemption from customs duty on the condition that the hospitals would reserve 15 per cent of the beds for the poor and that 40 per cent of out¬patients would be treated free of cost, says the PIL. There are about 60 private hospitals in the city and many had availed of the subsidies. The biggest beneficiaries were the larger hospitals, like the ones mentioned in the PIL, and they are also the ones who can carry out the heart surgeries.
A total of 5,956 children in the state suffering from heart ailments were identified for surgery in 2005. The government offered financial assistance (see box) to private hospitals to perform the surgeries as the children were from poor families. But the hospitals have largely failed to take up the cases, the PIL says.
The PIL alleges that the children are being made to go from one hospital to another and that some hospitals are even charging them for surgery, despite the financial assistance promised by the state government, which had earmarked Rs eight crores for their treatment. Most of these children have been waiting for surgery for long ¬ from a few months to even seven to eight years. A good number of these are in urgent need of surgery, with an estimated 50 per cent having to drop out of school because they feel breathless with the slightest exertion. Paediatric cardiologists say that ‘early intervention’ is vital because surgeries can lead to a meaningful outcome only if performed at an early age. No one from the private hospitals was willing to go on record on the issue but a source said, “Children who were referred to us by government hospitals were attended to but not those who came on their own.” THE CASE: In August 2004, thousands of poor children suffering from heart ailments took to the streets in Hyderabad demanding that the government subsidise the cost of their treatment. It would have passed of as just another rally had a child not collapsed and died during the protest march. The angry reactions that followed prompted the then new Congress government, led by Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, to ask private hospitals to operate on the children, promising complete reimbursement of the expenses incurred. It has been over 15 months since the promise was made. The hospitals did operate in the initial days, but stopped when the reimbursements took far too long in coming. The govt then issued an order, announcing a package that would give private hospitals 20 per cent less than what was being charged by Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, an autonomous medical institute, for a similar surgery. Unhappy with the package, as the cost of surgeries in some cases ran into lakhs of rupees, private hospitals took very few cases.
Friday, November 25, 2005 Mumbai Mirror