Despite a fine slapped by the Delhi High Court in 2009 and a subsequent Supreme Court interim order, the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital here has not been providing free treatment to poor patients, a lawyer-cum-social activist has alleged. However, the hospital said it won’t comment on the issue as it was sub-judice.
As per stipulated norms mandated at the time of creation of Apollo Hospital, the hospital is supposed to provide free treatment to 40% Economically Weaker Section (EWS) patients in outpatient department (OPD) and 33% patients in its inpatient department (IPD), but the hospital has till now not given even 10% beds to the poor, according to Ashok Agarwal, a lawyer who had filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court in 1997, seeking the court’ direction on the issue of the hospital allegedly denying free treatment to the poor.
According to Agarwal, the concept of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital was conceived in 1986 and the 15 acre prime land on which the Hospital is situated was provided by Delhi government on lease rent of Re 1 per month in 1994 for 30 years.
As per the agreement, the hospital was to provide free treatment to patients amounting to 33% of its total beds and 40% of OPD.
“Indraprastha Apollo Hospital has total 700 beds. Of the total available beds, the hospital should keep 33% reserved for EWS patients in IPD. At the same time, Apollo has 165 Intensive Care Units (ICU) of which 33% beds are supposed to be reserved for EWS patients. However, the ground reality is different. The hospital is not allotting even 10% beds to poor patients,” Agarwal alleged.
While deciding on Agarwal’s PIL, in 2009, the Delhi High Court had ruled: “The expert committee has submitted two reports which clearly show that Apollo has flouted the conditions with impunity.” The Delhi High Court also slapped a fine of Rs 2 lakh on Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.Agarwal added: “During the hearing, the High Court had also appointed an expert committee that found that in 2002, the average bed occupancy of the hospital was at 69.2% in IPD, but it was not providing free treatment to the poor. Another High Court appointed committee, also in 2009, said that average free treatment provided by the hospital in the last five years was 2.46 % in IPD and 0.27 % in OPD, against the mandatory limit.”
On being contacted, spokesperson of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital said: “Since the matter is sub-judice, the hospital wouldn’t like to comment.”Challenging the order of the High Court, the hospital had approached to the Supreme Court. Passing an interim order in the case in January 2010, the Supreme Court pronounced: “In the meantime, the hospital shall continue to provide whatever benefit as has been mentioned in paragraph ‘p’ at pages 104 to 106 of the special leave petition, as far as the 200 free beds are considered.” The case is still pending in the Supreme Court.
The Sunday Guardian contacted Hem Prakash Sharma, additional director of the EWS unit under the Delhi government’s health ministry, but this paper was directed to contact Kirti Bhushan, Director General of Health Services, Delhi. However, Bhushan was not available to make any comment as he was not reachable.