HC revokes BMC order which suspended licence of pvt hospital over overcharging Covid-19...

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Mumbai: The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday struck down the order issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) authorities temporarily suspending the licence of a private hospital at Mahim for purportedly overcharging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients.

Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner, G-North ward, BMC, had issued the order on July 30, suspending the licence of Family Care Hospital, which is run by Scandent Imaging Limited, for a month, on the ground that the private hospital had overcharged Covid-19 patients.

The two-member HC division bench, comprising Justices SJ Kathawalla and Madhav Jamdar, struck down the order after it found out that under the Bombay Nursing Homes Registration Act, 1949, the assistant commissioner of BMC was not empowered to suspend the licence of a nursing home.

The bench heard the petition filed by Scandent Imaging Limited and felt that the order was, perhaps, a knee-jerk reaction to a purported video that had gone viral on July 30, claiming that a Covid-19 patient died, allegedly because of gross negligence by the hospital authorities.

However, the patient had tested Covid-19 negative, as the result, which was made available two days after his death, showed.

The bench noted gaping holes in the order and the procedure followed by the BMC officials.

The court said the Act requires a 30-day notice should be given to a nursing home to suspend its licence, but in this case, only two days were given to the private hospital on June 8, citing overcharging.

The order mentioned the viral video, but the BMC officials did not bother to authenticate the claims, the bench said.

The court said the order neither made mention of the private hospital authorities’ response to the June 8 notice nor did it take its rebuttal into consideration.

Earlier, the bench had asked Iqbal Singh Chahal, commissioner, BMC, to appear before it through video conferencing, after it had found out that the civic officials concerned and the lawyer were unable to satisfactorily respond to its queries.

“We have a very serious grievance against your (BMC) officers,” the bench told Chahal, when he appeared before HC on Tuesday and pointed out the lacunaes found in its July 30 order.

“How can you function like this?” the judges asked the BMC commissioner. “The corporation cannot be allowed to function like this. The order will be struck down,” they added.

However, the bench has granted liberty to the civic officials to issue a fresh show-cause notice to the hospital authorities and to pass a fresh order in accordance with the law.

During the course of the hearing, advocate Yashodeep Deshmukh sought to intervene in the matter on behalf of the brother-in-law of the deceased patient.

He pointed out that the non-Covid-19 patient was carelessly mixed up by the private hospital authorities with Covid-19 patients.

Deshmukh stated that on July 29 --- two days after the patient’s death – his Covid-19 test report proved to be negative.

The judges took a compassionate view of the deceased family’s ordeal, but still held the BMC to account for its keen-jerk reaction.

They directed the civic body officials to ascertain the allegations hurled against any hospital authority before they take any legal measures and punitive action.

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