Private hospitals treated more poor patients over past 2 years

Delhi government's analysis of compliance rates for treatment shows that the average bed occupancy of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) patients in private hospitals has improved from a little over one per cent to over six per cent, in two years. Hospital admissions and out-patient management of poor patients have improved in most hospitals. There are 43 private hospitals in Delhi, with 800 EWS beds in total. A declaration of income in a standard affidavit by the patient or relatives is the only necessary document. Family income limit for EWS category is Rs 7,020 a month.

'These percentages also include two private ayurvedic hospitals which have zero admissions in the EWS category so far. If we just evaluate the allopathic hospitals, the EWS admission rates are as much as eight per cent,' said a senior Delhi government official.

The Delhi High Court had directed that all private hospitals which were given land at concessional rates have to reserve 10 per cent of their bed strength and 25 per cent of the out-patient load for poor patients. They were also asked to provide treatment free of cost, which included consultation costs and cost of drugs and consumables. The directives were reiterated by the Supreme Court last year.

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'Though no analysis has been done yet, from our daily experience it is evident that private hospitals are hardly admitting any patients in super-specialised areas like neurology, cardiology and oncology, since treatment costs are higher. Most patients are admitted for minor surgical or medical problems,' pointed members of the High Court appointed committee.

West Delhi faired the best OPD patient attendance with 22 per cent EWS patients. OPD attendance is at an average of 18 per cent in the city. South Delhi still has barely two to three per cent admission rates at any given time.

'West Delhi has the best EWS admission rates. There have been times when many hospitals are admitting patients over the stipulated 10 per cent. Patients cannot be discharged till the treatment is completed, and if other patients happen to report to the hospital at this time, they cannot be turned away. It is heartening to see some hospitals following all these rules,' the official said.

'Though South Delhi hospitals are some of the biggest, we have had problems from them. We have seen general awareness levels among the economically backward much better in the peripheral districts in comparison to South and Central Delhi, which could also be a reason for their better performance,' said advocate Ashok Aggarwal, a member of the High Court committee.

'The number of government hospitals is the lowest in South Delhi. This also has to be considered as we were able to motivate government hospital doctors to refer EWS patients to private hospitals, rather than to central government facilities,' government officials added.

'After the High Court made compliance mandatory for private hospitals, 10 of them had approached the Supreme Court, seeking exemption from compensating the cost of drugs and consumables. But with the apex court reaffirming the High Court directive, hospitals cannot find any ground for escaping this responsibility,' Aggarwal said.

Since April 2011, updates on the Delhi government's EWS treatment website show availability of beds in these hospitals. This has also helped, the officials said.

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