A West Bengal lawmaker has capped at Rs 250 the consultation charge for doctors in his constituency, the controversial move comes a week after chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced a crackdown on private hospitals for alleged overcharging.
Public healthcare system is in a bad shape in West Bengal, especially in the rural areas, forcing people to opt for private doctors which can be expensive.
“No doctor can charge a patient more than Rs 250 for a single consultation,” Dinhata MLA and ruling Trinamool Party leader Udayan Guha told HT over the phone on Wednesday.
The announcement , which is legally untenable, has raised eyebrows as an MLA doesn’t have the authority to regulate medical services or charges.
For the second visit, the doctor charge would be halved to Rs 125, Guha said, a day after he made his decision known to healthcare professionals.
“I have also said that no hospital, or nursing home can charge more than Rs 18,000 for a delivery case that involves caesarian operation,” Guha said.
To break the doctor-lab nexus, which is thriving in the state, Guha said doctors can’t accompany representatives of pathological or radiological laboratories to a hospital.
Guha is a political heavyweight and his writ runs in Dinhata, which is part of the predominantly agricultural district of Cooch Behar in north Bengal. He is also the chairman of the sub-divisional hospital’s patient welfare committee.
The MLA, however, could not say how many doctors would follow the order, which came a week after Banerjee decided to act against alleged fleecing of patients by private practitioners.
In a meeting with the representatives of all major private hospitals and nursing homes of the state on February 22, the chief minister came down hard on them for overcharging and “substandard service”.
“This is not a building material supply business. You can’t charge patients whatever you want. You should not forget that providing life and service is a major part of your business,” she said.
Since then, several arrests have been made in the districts and an FIR registered against Kolkata’s Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals over the death of a youth whose family complained of exorbitant charges.
Banerjee, who also holds the health portfolio, blames 34-year Left rule for the breakdown of the health services and has promised to improve facilities.