The Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government to come up with a regularity mechanism to ensure that patients seeking treatment in private hospitals are not harassed over payment of bills. A bench of justices S C Dharamadhikari and Bharati Dangre said the state must come up with a mechanism that balances the rights of the hospitals as well as the patients.
The bench said the state must ensure that patients or their relatives are not illegally detained or harassed by the hospital authorities over their inability to pay bills. “This illegal confinement of patients when they fail to clear the bills cannot be permitted to continue. “A patient, who is otherwise fit and no longer needs treatment, can’t be prevented from leaving the hospital by the authorities,” the bench said. “We understand a hospital can’t waive its entire fees but it is also true that sometimes, patients are overcharged.
The hospital gives them a composite bill that includes charges for its infrastructure and related services. “It is the hospitals’ right to do so. Hence, the state must come up with a system that balances the rights of the patients as well as the hospitals,” the judges said. The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed following two cases where patients were detained over disputed hospital bills. To deal with such cases, the government has come up with a bill, which is yet to be approved, the state’s counsel Rui Rodrigues told the court. To handle such grievances, the government had come up with the Maharashtra Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2014, but the same was yet to be tabled before the state legislature, Rodrigues said.