The West Bengal Clinical Establishments Regulatory Commission (WBCERC) issued an advisory directing that although private hospitals may not refuse admission of COVID-19 or other patients even if they are unable to pay required hospital costs at the time of admission, hospitals have a right to discharge and send shift the ailing patients away if they fail to pay the hospital dues 12 hours after admission. In other words, if a struggling COVID-19 patient is brought to a private hospital at 3 pm in the afternoon and the hospital demands an advance treatment cost of Rs. 50,000/- (maximum they can ask at admission under the WBCERC advisory), the patient will have to be admitted but the sick patient may be thrown out of the hospital in the middle of the night after 3 am if the patient-party has still not paid the hospital bill of Rs. 50,000/-. This new regulation framed by the WBCERC has already caused panic in the ordinary people of West Bengal who are still reeling under the savage assault of COVID-19 pandemic.
Supreme Court of India has repeatedly held that healthcare is a fundamental right of all citizens of India and no doctor/hospital may refuse treatment of a patient for failure to pay medical bills. Reports of private hospitals and nursing homes forcing defenseless COVID-19 patients to pay highly inflated medical bills appear on a regular basis in the news. Allegations of COVID-19 patient left unattended and died before glitzy private hospital only because he was unable to pay the hefty medical bill have also appeared in the newspapers. The new provision made by the WBCERC that even an admitted patient undergoing treatment may be kicked out of the hospital only 12 hours after admission if his family fails to pay the heavy cost of treatment is inhumane, immoral, unlawful and unconstitutional that is likely to bring more pain, suffering and possibly death for the hapless patients in West Bengal. PBT filed a formal representation with the WBCERC yesterday asking the Commission to immediately repeal/cancel this shocking provision in the new advisory. PBT will bring this before the court if the WBCERC remains silent and does not provide a reasonable response soon.