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July 18, 2019
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Is Aga Khan Hospital a charity hospital or a commercial organisation?

KARACHI: A Sindh High Court (SHC) bench on Wednesday ordered the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) to tell the court whether it was a charity hospital or commercial organisation.

A division bench of the SHC heard a case against the alleged running of the hospital on commercial basis despite being a charity organisation.

A member of the bench Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar asked the counsel of the hospital whether the hospital was treating patients free as it had been provided land by the government for being a charity organisation.

The counsel sought time from the court to file a reply. This irked the bench as Justice Mazhar reprimanded the counsel for repeatedly seeking time. “Every time you seek time for filing reply. You should tell the bench whether the hospital is a charity organisation or not?” the bench asked.

The judge observed that it has clearly been written in the hospital’s charter that it will not resort to any profitable business.

The bench issued notices to Administrator AKUH and Deputy Commissioner East and sought a reply from them by January 31, 2017.

The petitioner, Dur Muhammad Shah Advocate, told the court that Sindh government had allocated a precious piece of land free of cost to AKUH for charity and welfare purpose. He informed that the hospital was being run purely on commercial basis instead of charity and welfare.

He said that different lab tests at AKUH were the most expensive in the city. He further added that the consultation fee of the doctors at the hospital was also very high.

The petitioner has made Chief Secretary of Sindh, Aga Khan Hospital administration, secretary health, and deputy commissioner as respondents in the petition.

The petitioner submitted in his petition that AKUH had been allotted land by the deputy commissioner of District East for the construction of a charitable hospital and medical college, with the condition that no portion of the land “shall be used for the commercial purpose.”

He said that under Section 10 (4) of the Colonisation 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. He submitted 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; besides, 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.

He submitted that the Aga Khan University Hospital was providing medical facilities to the 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 the citizens.

He also sought the court to order NAB to hold an investigation into the alleged misuse of the land and the hospital’s failure to use the land for charitable purposes.