Hospitals can’t withhold bodies even if bills are not paid: Delhi Govt

RSTV Bureau

healthThe Delhi government has issued an advisory directing that private hospitals in the national capital “cannot hold hostage” bodies of patients, who have died during treatment there, even if families are unable to pay the due bills before the last rites.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, however, said the proposal does not imply that the bills would be waived, and hospitals can take legal action in case the payments are not made later by the families.

“Body of any deceased patient cannot be forcibly withheld by a hospital and denied to the family for want of payment of due bills. There has to be dignity in death. A body cannot be held hostage just for bills. After death, a body belongs to the society, and final rites must be performed,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

The draft advisory has been prepared on the basis of recommendations of a nine-member expert panel, headed by Director-General of Health Services Kirti Bhushan, which was set up by the Arvind Kejriwal government on December 13 last year, after allegations of excessive charges and unfair employment practices by a few private facilities were reported.

“The draft has been put in public domain, inviting suggestions and objections for a period of 30 days. After that, we will implement the policy with revisions,” Jain said.

The minister said that the draft also proposes that doctors at private hospitals and nursing homes should preferably only prescribe drugs from the NLEM (National List of Essential Medicines) list and patients should be consulted before administering drugs in the non-NLEM category.

The National List of Essential Medicines of India 2011 (NLEM 2011) is a list of medicines, prepared by the Ministry of Health, which are considered essential in India.

The members of the panel include the then Indian Medical Association president Dr K K Aggarwal, Delhi Medical Council president Dr Arun Gupta, former president of Delhi Medical Association Dr R K Gupta, and experts, and senior bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, the draft advisory has invited subdued reactions, with one hospital group calling the proposals “harsh” while another said, it will provide its comments directly to the government. However, both said they will engage with the government on this matter.

“The advisory from the Delhi government is quite harsh from the perspective of private healthcare services providers based in Delhi. We are in the process of studying the document in detail and will be engaging with the government in a constructive manner,” a spokesperson of the Max Healthcare group said in a statement.

(With inputs from PTI)