Mumbai suburban railway lines’ mishaps reportedly consume over 300 lives every month. The Bombay High Court feels that some of these lives could be saved if the private hospitals in the vicinity of the accident areas provide prompt medical care and so recently directed the Maharashtra government to ensure that private hospitals provide prompt medical care to railway mishap victims without waiting for police formalities. A necessary move because time is a crucial factor in case of accidental emergencies and wasting time in shifting the patient to a distant government healthcare setup while there is an availability of private hospital nearby is not ethical.
Private hospitals generally hesitate to take up the accident patients mostly because of two reasons – police formalities and financial constraints. While the high court has cleared the former, the latter remains unsolved. Apparently, there was no mention in the court’s order about who will pay for such treatments in private hospitals. Also, there was no direction to the state government to compensate the private hospitals for rendering treatment to the accident victims or to ensure that the private hospitals get paid for their services in one way or the other.
The court order was supported by the information that under the law private charitable trusts were required to offer free treatment to a percentage of patients who are poor. In this case, it is not clear if the railway mishap victims have to be considered poor. Besides, the court order, if we were to believe the media reports, didn’t pertain only to charitable hospitals but also included other private hospitals.
Though the high court order is appreciable in one way that it aims to provide timely medical support to the accident victims, it does not clarify about who would pay for the medical service so rendered by private, and mostly unaided, hospitals. While a public private partnership might be a good option in this regard, forcing private hospitals to treat the injured patients for free might not be economically viable and sustainable in the long run. That might possibly also lead to a reduction in the quality of care provided to those patients.
The high court has scheduled further hearing of the case for next month. Hope that the court clarifies how the private hospitals will be financially supported to carry out the order received.