New Delhi: In a bid to decongest overcrowded government hospitals in Delhi, the Supreme Court directed the former to refer poor patients to private hospitals for free treatment. These private hospitals include those which got land at subsidised rates and, as per the agreement, were bound to treat poor patients free of cost.

The ruling was made in support of an order earlier passed by Delhi High Court in favour of free treatment to poor in private hospitals built on land purchased at subsidised rates which was challenged by Dharamshila Cancer Hospital and other private hospitals.

The High Court judgment had asked private hospitals to provide treatment to 10 percent indoor and 25 percent outdoor patients for free.

A bench comprising Justice R V Raveendran and Justice A K Patnaik on Monday, after hearing the petition, ordered all private hospitals to discuss this matter with Delhi government within ten days in order to implement the free treatment order.

The hospitals submitted varying schemes to the bench. While senior Supreme Court lawyers Rohinton Nariman and Navin Chawala on behalf of Dharamshila Hospital told the court that it was ready to spend two percent of its turnover on poor patients, another private hospital said it was ready to provide poor patients free bed and secondary level of treatment, including free diagnostic tests but requested the government to grant aid under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) to meet the cost of expensive treatments.

Ashok Agarwal, lawyer and founder of NGO Social Jurist, had raised the issue of free treatment to poor in private hospitals in the High Court. He had said the government hospitals in Delhi are crowded with poor patients whereas beds in private hospitals remain vacant.

The Apex Court asked the government to frame a final scheme in consultation with the private hospitals and petitioner Ashol Agarwal within four weeks and submit it to the court.
Meanwhile, the court directed the private hospitals to offer free treatment to poor patients and maintain a record of how many poor patients it has treated in a day.