Sting By Charity Commissioner Lands Nanavati Hospital  In Trouble


Clad in a pale white shirt, trousers and a cap, the city’s charity commissioner Shivkumar Dige experienced firsthand how the poor are treated at big trust-run hospitals that are supposed to earmark beds and provide them concessional treatment. Posing as a patient, the commissioner himself exposed irregularities at the Bhulabhai Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle, and has now ordered an inquiry and a criminal case to be filed against the trustees.On September 12, Dige walked into the swanky hospital and enquired with the receptionist at the front desk whether he could avail of treatment for chest pain under the charity scheme. Posing as a slum dweller from Mahalaxmi, the commissioner claimed he was a yellow ration card holder with an annual income of Rs 50,000. The receptionist allegedly said she was unaware of any charitable scheme and directed him to another counter at the rear side of the hospital premises.

Still in his decoy avatar, the commissioner headed next to the social worker’s office, which he claimed was not easy to locate as it was tucked away in a corner of the hospital’s newly refurbished structure. The arogya seva counter, which is supposed to be at the forefront in order to help patients availing of the scheme, was next to the social worker’s office. While the social worker was not too “forthcoming“, the arogya seva person asked Dige for documents to prove his financial status. Dige was also questioned about his occupation before being asked to proceed towards the billing section. When Dige said there was no way he could pay for the treatment, he was told some deposit money would be required.

On directions of the Bombay High Court, the charity commissioner of Maharashtra in 2006 had framed a scheme for treatment of poor patients in reputed charitable hospitals. Under the scheme, hospitals are supposed to set aside 10% of their beds for indigent patients and give concessions to another10% from weaker sections. They are also supposed to prominently display boards speaking of these provisions.

Speaking to TOI, Dige said, “It was clear that several hurdles were created to stop poor patients from availing treatment under the scheme. They are supposed to treat patients first before asking for any documents. They also cannot insist on a deposit amount“. He added that only 12 poor patients were being treated under the scheme at the time of his inspection whereas the hospital is supposed to keep aside 66 beds for indigents and patients from the weaker sections. Only six of them had their income proofs.

“The board that informs patients about the scheme and the availability of beds was hanging in a nondescript part of the hospital,“ he said. An assistant charity commissioner has been directed to file a criminal case against the trustees for violation of the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950. Dige said that in a previous inspection that was carried out in May this year, the same violations were pointed out to the hospital management. “We have also asked whether Nanavati still qualifies as a charitable hospital after its takeover by a corporate (Radiant Lifecare),“ Dige added.

When contacted, COO of Nanavati Dr Rajendra Patankar, said they are yet to receive an official communication. “We will check,“ he replied in a text message.

The commissioner said that two more hospitals have come under the scanner. Their names however have not been made public as investigations are on.