After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes, patients admitted in private hospitals and their families were hassled on Wednesday as hospitals refused to accept the ‘illegal’ currency.
Gurgaon has more than 10 private hospitals, including Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Medanta - The Medicity, Columbia Asia, W Pratiksha, Paras Hospital, Artemis Hospital, Park Hospital, Max hospital, Rockland and Privat Hospital, offering multi-speciality treatment facilities.
Patients complained that most hospitals and pharmacies blatantly rejected ₹1,000 and ₹500 currency notes for the bill payments, even in emergency cases.
“The PM’s announcement came after all banks were closed and today (Wednesday) banks and ATMs were shut. How are we supposed to exchange the ₹500 and ₹1000 notes? My bank account has only ₹5,000 and the bill for my daughter’s treatment is ₹8,500. I don’t have any options,” Saroj Singh, whose daughter is admitted in a private hospital, said.
Another patient’s family member, BP Gautam, said, “I went with one of my relatives to the pharmacy at Paras Hospital in Sushant Lok but the staff refused to take a ₹500 note. Finally, we had to use a credit card.”
About 30 to 40% patients of these hospital come from abroad. However, foreign nationals said they did not have issues after large denomination currency notes were demonetised as most of their transactions were electronic. Also, a number of these hospitals accept foreign currencies.
Private hospitals, however, said the PM announced that only government hospitals and pharmacies would be authorised to accept the higher denomination currency notes.
“We are not accepting ₹500 and ₹1000 notes in the out patient department (OPD). In emergency cases, we are accepting cheques. Patients can also pay in foreign currencies,” a spokesperson of Artemis Hospital said.
Hospitals authorities said they have reached out to the government to include private hospitals in the exempted list.
“In view of the hardship being caused to large number of patients at private hospitals, we have made an urgent representation to the government that this exemption be applied equally to private hospitals too,” a spokesperson of Fortis Hospital said.
Dr Dharminder Nagar, MD and CEO, Paras Healthcare, has appealed to the finance ministry to allow private hospitals and pharmacies accept ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes. “Many patients who come to private hospitals do not have credit/debit cards, and are facing unforeseen hardships. I hope the government will look into their grievances,” Dr Nagar said.
Some hospital officials said patients were given free treatments in the OPD considering the severity of their conditions.
Divisional commissioner of Gurgaon, D Suresh, supported the private hospitals’ decision to not accept the notes.
“Private hospitals are not in the exemption list of the government. They can refuse to accept the demonetised ₹1,000 and ₹500 notes. Only government authorised pharmacies and hospitals are in the list,” Suresh said.
Residents said they have to depend on private hospitals as the civil hospital lacks advance treatment facilities.