Mumbai: The Bombay High Court said on Friday that detaining a patient in hospital over unpaid bills is illegal, and “every member of public” must be made aware of this.
A bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and Bharati Dangre directed the health department of the Maharashtra government to publish on its website the legal rights of patients and the penal provisions that can be invoked against errant hospitals.
“How can a hospital detain a person who is declared fit otherwise on the ground of non-payment of fees? Such hospital is curtailing the personal liberty of a person. Every member of the public must be made aware that such action on the part of a hospital is illegal,” the bench said.
The bench, however, refused to issue any specific regulatory order against hospitals, saying it is government’s job.
“We can’t commit a judicial overreach by issuing regulations on the issue. However, we must make it clear that we are sympathetic to the issue,” it said.
Opining that the government should formulate a mechanism to protect such patients and their families, the bench said hospitals can always resort to legal remedies to recover their dues.
The high court was hearing a public interest litigation which cited two cases where patients were allegedly detained at private hospitals over disputed bills.