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September 8, 2018

AKUH told to reply to plea seeking free facilities for poor citizens


September 8, 2018

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the Aga Khan University Hospital, the Sindh revenue department and others to file comments on a petition seeking directives for the AKUH to provide free medical facilities to poor and needy citizens.

Petitioner Dur Mohammad Shah submitted that the hospital was allotted land by the District East deputy commissioner in the 1980s for the construction of a charitable hospital and medical college, with the condition that no portion of the land “shall be used for commercial purpose”.

He said that under Section 10 (4) of the Colonization of Government Lands Act, the payment of land revenue annual assessment charges had to be made and recovered from the AKUH and it required a revised assessment on the expiration of the term after 10 years when the settlement of land was executed.

Shah further said that no annual assessment of payment of land revenue on the expiry of 10 years had ever been made or recovered from the university hospital by the government, while several blocks were being constructed by the hospital without getting approval from the relevant government agencies.

The petitioner said the AKUH had said on its official website that patient welfare and Zakat programmes gave financial assistance to patients who were unable to pay the fees, but practically they were charging patients higher fees than those charged by other charitable hospitals.

According to the petitioner, the AKUH was built and operated for charitable purposes in order to serve poor people, but unfortunately it was providing medical facilities at a high cost. He said poor patients could not afford the specialised healthcare that they desperately needed.

The petitioner stated that the hospital was providing medical facilities to higher-income group and corporate employees and it was extremely difficult for a common person to get medical treatment at such a high cost.

The court was requested to direct the AKUH to provide medical facility to every poor and needy citizen free of cost as per the agreement for the grant of land to the hospital and produce the entire record of free medical care it had provided to citizens.

The petitioner also sought action over the alleged misuse of the land and the hospital’s failure to use the land for charitable hospital purposes. An SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that comments have not been filed by the respondents, including the AKUH. In order to verify the facts, the court directed AKUH and other respondents to file comments on the petition.

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