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Kolkata police starts criminal case against Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals for alleged extortion

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-03-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: The police in Kolkata have started a criminal case against Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, a unit of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, for alleged extortion, as the state government cracks the whip on private healthcare facilities ahead of the implementation of the recently passed Clinical Establishments Act.

There’s clear instruction from chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the state’s health minister, that Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals—one of the biggest private healthcare facilities in Kolkata—should face “full consequences for lapses and malpractices”, a key government official said, asking not to be named.

The case was started after the wife of Sanjay Roy, a road accident victim who died last month after being in care of Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, filed a complaint with the police saying that the hospital authorities forced her to submit fixed deposit certificates to get him released because she could not immediately pay up.

Roy was moved to a government owned hospital because his family could not pay anymore for his treatment at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, and died within a day. As the controversy reared its head, Rupali Basu stepped down as the chief executive officer of Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals even while she was travelling abroad.

Basu has since remained incommunicado.

At the time of presenting the Bill for the Clinical Establishments Act on Friday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she stood vindicated by Basu’s resignation, and ordered a parallel investigation into Roy’s treatment at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals by a committee of physicians and health department officials.

The committee has presented its report to the state government on Monday, mentioning three major lapses including medical negligence, but didn’t name any individual as responsible for them, principal secretary in the health department R.S. Shukla said at a press conference.

However, the government isn’t happy with the report and has set up another committee to fix responsibilities. This committee will file its report within this week, according to Shukla.

Currently, the most substantive criminal charge against Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals is extortion, and the police have started a case under section 384 of the Indian Penal Code. Anyone found guilty of extortion can be sent to jail for up to three years.

“The chief minister wants to lift the corporate veil to book people who were responsible for institutional malpractices,” said the unnamed government official cited above. The move is reminiscent of directors of AMRI Hospitals Ltd being arrested and hauled to jail after fire broke out at one of its units in December 2011.

A spokesperson for Apollo Hospitals said Basu had quit as the chief executive officer and that a magazine edited by her and published by the company had also been suspended, but refused to make any further comments. Rana Dasgupta, the current chief executive officer of Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals didn’t answer phone calls or reply to text messages.

Several doctors have in the recent past internally waged war against Basu. She had set unrealistic revenue targets for consultants at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, which forced them to indulge in clinical malpractices, two senior doctors at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals said, asking not to be identified. It is not, however, unusual for consultants, or senior doctors, to deal with targets in private hospitals, they added.

Under the new regime that the chief minister is looking to enforce, a regulatory commission will determine charges for clinical tests and procedures at private hospitals. Such facilities will also be barred from repeating tests, but the doctors cited above said many provisions of the new law were infeasible.

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