The Kerala high court on Thursday directed the state government to take steps to introduce a uniform tariff rate for COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals across the state.
Expressing concern over the high treatment charges in private hospitals, a division bench of the high court, comprising Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagath, emphasised the need for rationalising COVID-19 treatment tariff in such facilities in the state.
In his remarks, Justice Devan Ramachandran said, "When the public is putting all their life savings (for treatment), the private hospitals can also sacrifice."
The court expressed hope that this situation will continue only for a few months. It directed the state government to take a decision on the matter by Monday.
The court was considering a plea alleging that private hospitals and testing centers were charging high bills to 'exploit the pandemic situation and fear of people in the society'.
The petitioner, a lawyer, sought directions from the court to take remedial measures to regularise the high charges imposed by private hospital for COVID-19 treatment.
In view of the spike in COVID cases in the state, the court directed the government to consider taking over the unused hospital buildings for treating coronavirus patients.
It also directed the state government to consider appointing sectoral magistrates for supervision of hospitals.
Referring to certain COVID-19 bills charged by the private hospitals, the high court said some of the hospitals were charging its patients high amount for PPE kits per day and taking Rs 40,000 for oxygen. The court said this has to be regulated.
The court also suggested uniform charges for doctor and nurse consultation.
It also suggested toll-free helpline number exclusively for COVID-19 so that people could get guidance easily in case they needed details of beds in hospitals and other information on treatment.