Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked Medical Council of India (MCI) to inform whether it can frame rules to have control over hospitals in cases where patients are detained or bodies are not released due to non-payment of medical bills.
The court was hearing two petitions alleging detention of patients, making allegations against Seven Hills hospital in suburban Andheri and Prachin Healthcare Multi-speciality hospital at neighbouring Panvel town.
The High Court turned the petitions into a public interest litigation in order to decide on a mechanism to help the hospitals in recovering their dues and prevent them from resorting to practises such as detaining patients or keeping back bodies for non-payment of bills.
The MCI had on last occasion informed that it had control over doctors but not over hospitals.
The High Court, today, asked MCI Counsel to seek instructions and inform after a week whether it can frame rules to control hospitals over the issue of detaining patients or bodies for non-payment of medical dues.
The Association of Medical Consultants and Hospitals, which has 8,000 specialist doctors and 1,500 hospitals under its fold, opined that detaining patients or not releasing bodies due to non-payment of bills was an unfair practice.
Counsel for the Association Rui Rodrigues said some foreign countries have a Debt Recovery Act which has a provision of Medical Insurance wherein hospitals can recover their legitimate dues. Such a provision can also be made in India in accordance with the laws of this country, he said.
Rodrigues said that both the doctors and the hospitals do not want to detain patients in case of non-payment of dues and a mechanism needs to be worked out to strike a balance between the needs of patients and recovery of medical bills.
A bench of Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode observed, "we do not have any grievance against doctors. We are only concerned about hospitals." In this regard, the bench asked MCI whether it can frame rules to have control over hospitals.
The High Court had remarked earlier that hospital spend a lot of money on medicines and treatment, and are justified in recovering the cost from patients, but their "high-handed behaviour" was unacceptable.
Government pleader Sandeep Shinde had opined that the hospitals did not have a legal right to detain patients; they can only file suits to recover the costs.
The court had also suggested that the hospitals should notify cost of treatment to patients in advance.
The matter has been posted for hearing after a week.