HYDERABAD: The Telangana High Court on Wednesday gave one last chance to the state government to issue an order (G O) for capping maximum prices for diagnostic and treatment services, and medical equipment provided to treat Covid-19 patients in private hospitals and nursing homes.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy made the directions while dealing with the Covid-19 related public interest litigations (PILs). On May 17, the court directed the state to issue a GO within two days regarding the same. As it was not complied, on June 1, it gave one more chance on the request of the director of public health. The court specifically mentioned that if the GO was not issued, the secretary of medical, health and family welfare should appear before the court to explain the delay.
On Wednesday, Mr. Rizvi, secretary of medical, health and family welfare appeared before the court and sought another four weeks to issue the GO on the ground that the government was holding meetings with various nursing homes and private hospitals associations to arrive at a final capping price.
Justice Kohli expressed dissatisfaction and observed, “When are you proposing to give the capping? For the last one month, this court has been allowing the government, assuming that a GO will be issued and during this interregnum, poor patients are being ripped apart by some rogue nursing homes and private hospitals every day. Their pockets are becoming lighter. But you are seeking further time."
The court directed the government to issue a GO by the next date of hearing on June 23.
The court said its intention was not to find fault with the government, but it was pointing out loopholes and lacunae at the field level and moreover, on concern about people's suffering.
The court came down heavily on the deputy director of NPPA (Union health ministry), for not making efforts in bringing down prices of life saving drugs, particularly the drugs in non-scheduled category. The court asked the Union government to wake up to this situation, to bring down the prices, as several life-saving medicines for Covid-19 are not affordable to the marginalised people.
The division bench took on record the contentions put forth by Dr. G. Srinivas Rao, director public health and family welfare, Telangana, that the 14 RT PCR labs established in different districts of the state will commence their operations by June 10 as the ICMR had to issue log in credentials for commencing the testing.
He also submitted to the court that 223 complaints had been received against 135 hospitals for excess billings and with the involvement of the government, hospitals had refunded Rs 60 lakh to 65 lakh of excess bill amounts to patients.
Senior counsel L. Ravichandra informed the court that there were around 35,000 posts vacant in the state medical department and filling of these posts should be ramped up.
The court inquired the director of public health about the preparedness to face the third wave of pandemic and the constitution of the advisory committee under Disaster Management Act.
On a query by the court about vaccination, Srinivasa Rao informed the court that the government would complete vaccinating its entire population in another three months. He submitted that daily 25,000 doses of vaccination would be administered to street beggars, children, destitute, orphans and prison inmates in GHMC limits.