The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has slapped Rs 700 crore fine on five private hospitals for denying free treatment to poor patients.
The government has accused private hospitals such as Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Max Super Specialty hospital, Dharamshila Hospital, Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute and Shanti Mukund Hospital of flouting rules, under which poor patients should get free access to out- patient department (OPD) services and hospital admissions, the Hindustan Times reported.
The rules are applicable to those private hospitals that have been given land on concessional rates.
According to the norms, the hospitals should reserve 25 percent of OPD services to poor people without charging them and 10 percent of the hospital admissions to the people belonging to economically weaker sections of society (EWS).
In 2007 the Delhi High Court, in response to a public interest litigation (PIL), directed for implementation of these norms and said that strict action would be taken against hospitals found violating the rules.
The Delhi government has said that it would recover the profits made by the private hospitals, which they made by charging for services allocated to poor patients.
Of Rs 700 crore, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute has to pay Rs 503 crore fine to the government.
"The money recovered would be used to set up a corpus fund to be used for Delhi's health sector," said Hem Parkash, additional director, in-charge of beds for people from the EWS, was quoted by the HT as saying.
He added that the hospitals were served notices in December 2015 and given a hearing. But the government order that was issued on Thursday is final.
The hospitals have meanwhile said that they would challenge the government order in court.
"We treat thousands of EWS patients every year and are extremely serious towards fulfilling our obligations. We will prefer an appeal against this order," Devki Devi Foundation, the parent organisation of Saket's Max hospital, said, according to HT.
Fortis HealthCare Ltd told NDTV that the government order is flawed. "The impugned order is legally flawed and untenable. The management will challenge it in the high court," it said.
The Delhi government has given land at concessional rates to 43 private hospitals on the condition that they would provide free treatment to poor people.