The Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it was not feasible for it to cap charges for all beds at private hospitals and nursing homes in the state.
Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni informed a bench headed by Justice Amjad Sayed that the state had capped charges for beds and ancillary items including PPE kits for 80 per cent of beds at private hospitals and nursing homes.
Hospitals, however, were permitted to charge their own rates for the remaining 20 per cent beds for treatment of both COVID-19 and other patients, he said.
"We can't take over private hospitals completely. Regulating charges for all beds, taking over like that will not be feasible, as these are private hospitals and the state is not providing them any aid," Mr Kumbhakoni said.
"If we regulate everything, it will be like nationalisation (of hospitals)," he argued.
Mr Kumbhakoni was responding to the court's previous query on whether the state government had a mechanism to prevent overcharging of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Abhijeet Mangade that stated that some private hospitals were overcharging patients for treatment of both coronavirus and other ailments for ancillary items such as PPE kits, gloves and N95 masks.
Mr Mangade told the court on Tuesday that his mother had been charged Rs 72,000 for PPE kits for six days when she was admitted to a hospital in the city in June.
The AG told the High Court that the state had issued two notifications, one in May and another on August 31 to regulate beds and cap rates for PPEs in private hospitals and nursing homes.
As per the notifications, hospitals and nursing homes can charge maximum of Rs 600 per patient per day for PPE kits in regular wards, while in ICUs, they can charge a maximum of Rs 1,200 per patient per day, Mr Kumbhakoni said.
Similarly, charges for beds, doctors' rounds, treatment etc, had also been fixed for 80 per cent beds, he said.
Mr Mangade, however, urged the court to direct the state government to cap charges for PPE kits for the remaining 20 per cent beds as well. "My issue is not regulation of all bed charges, but only capping prices for PPE kits for all beds, as these form a major portion of bills," the petitioner said.
The court adjourned further hearing for a week and said that the matter will be heard by the Chief Justice's court.