Srinagar: Under Supreme Court guidelines and a subsequent law enacted by the J&K government, private hospitals that are getting subsidies and other benefits from the government have to reserve free-of-cost “charity beds”, up to 25 percent of the total beds, and out-patient department facilities for poor patients in their institutions.
However, the J&K government has not yet devised any mechanism to implement this policy following the Supreme Court order. As a result, patients from the economically weaker sections are being denied what is their entitlement: free treatment in private hospitals and nursing homes.
In J&K, private hospitals are registered under the J&K Nursing Homes and Clinical Establishments (Registration and Licensing) Act, 1963 (Amended 2006). As per the Act, “all charitable institutions getting subsidy from the central/ state government should adhere to the prescribed norms by way of keeping a provision for free service to 25% of the patients attending to the institutions.”
Most of the private hospitals in J&K get subsidy and concessions from the government to acquire land and other facilities. Some hospitals were also allowed to work in residential areas as per relaxed norms of the government.
“The government has kept a dedicated power supply available for them. Health department has also relaxed norms for them. But, tax payers are getting nothing in return. These private institutions violate the guidelines of the Act and the SC ruling,” said an official at Directorate of Health Services Kashmir.
Another official, who was part of the high-level committee that devised parameters for private health institutions, said the health department had been lenient on the owners of nursing homes, which is why poor people are denied various benefits.
“There is no mechanism in place to implement the guidelines and monitoring these institutions for any violation,” he said.
Kashmir Reader spoke to the officials and owners of many Kashmir-based nursing homes. Most of them expressed ignorance about any such norms which provide a reservation of up to 25 percent of beds for poor patients.
Some of them even boasted about their functioning and criticised the government for being tough on them.
“We are not receiving any benefit from the government so we are not duty bound to provide free treatment to poor patients,” said Dr Asif Khanday, owner of Ahmad Hospital.
“We help poor patients regularly and during emergency. It’s not as per any rule but as per our will and happiness,” he said.
Managing Director of Florence Hospital Chanapora, Dr Imran Muzaffar, expressed similar views and said his hospital doesn’t come under the charity hospital category.
“Government has not given us any benefit but we are still helping poor patients of our own,” he said.
Dr Mir Sammiullah of Star Hospital said there was no reserved quota for poor patients. However, he said the institution provides concession in treatment to patients from economically weaker sections.
Director Health Services Kashmir, Dr Kunzes Dolma, expressed ignorance about the SC ruling as well as of the J&K government’s Act.
“I am not aware about this provision. But, I assure you that I will monitor the nursing homes and other health institutions,” she said.