Patients coughing up ₹1,800-5,000 for PPE kits of health workers in Chandigarh tricity’s private hospitals
Treatment just got more expensive in the tricity’s private hospitals with patients being asked to cough up anything between Rs 1,800 to Rs 5,000 for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE kits) and Rs 50 for sanitisers used – not by them – but by health workers as protection against Covid-19, it has been learnt.
Hospitals say they are passing off costs of protection kits to patients to balance increasing expenses due to Covid-19 safety protocols put in place by health authorities.
A woman treated at Alchemist hospital in Panchkula who did not want her name revealed said she was shocked to find she had been billed Rs 18,000 for nine PPE kits. “I delivered a baby at the hospital and was shocked to find Rs 18,000 added to the bill for nine PPE kits, of which seven were used by health workers during my surgery (Rs 1,800 each for six kits and Rs 2,400 for one kit) and two for the baby (Rs 2,400 per kit),” she says.
When she questioned the hospital she was told all patients were being charged for the safety kits.
When asked to comment on the matter, a hospital spokesperson also not wishing to be named, said, “We are following Haryana health department guidelines and are charging as per the guidelines and not charging unnecessarily.”
A Chandigarh resident who went to Chaitanya Hospital in the city for some tests was surprised when he was charged Rs 50 for a sanitiser. Confirming the costs, Dr Neeraj Kumar, director of the hospital, said Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 was also being charged for PPE kits.
“We have to take precautions because of Covid-19. Hygiene has to be maintained, OPD area is cleaned every two hours and more house staff is employed. Fewer patients are coming in while hospital expenses have increased,” Dr Kumar said.
‘10% extra fee can be charged’
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), Dr Kumar added, had said that 10% extra fee could be charged from patients in outpatient departments as sanitation expenses had increased. The cost of the PPE also depended on the kind of surgery being performed. “On an average, Rs 5,000 is charged for a PPE kit from patients,” he said.
When contacted, however, Dr Rajesh Dhir, president, IMA, Chandigarh, said, “I am not aware of any such percentage being allowed by IMA. However, I believe that the private hospitals should maintain a balance while charging the amount so that it does not pinch the pocket of the customer but at the same time doctors too don’t feel demotivated as it has become too expensive to run health services during the pandemic.”
All hospitals were passing on costs of safety measures to patients. “My elder brother is undergoing dialysis from one private hospital in Mohali and we went to Fortis Hospital for some medical intervention, where they charged Rs 4,200 for PPE,” said Mohit Sharma from Chandigarh.
When asked to respond, Ajey Maharaj, head, corprorate communications, Fortis Healthcare, said costs of safety measures had driven up expenses in hospitals. Confirming that patients were billed for PPE, he said, “as per the government directive, hospital medical staff in direct contact of the patients are advised to use good quality PPE kits and masks. Where PPE is required for treatment, cost of actual PPE being used is charged. In ICUs or wards with multiple patients, the total cost of PPEs is divided by the number of patients in the ward. Also, to ensure minimal impact on patient, PPE is being charged at much lower rates than the MRP.”
‘Overcharging, irrational usage’
Meanwhile, when contacted, Panchkula civil surgeon Dr Jasjeet Kaur said an order had been issued about overcharging for PPE kits in certain hospitals. It read that irrational usage and overcharging for PPE kits had been observed in certain private hospitals, adding unnecessary burden to the patients. “A serious note of this is being taken and all private hospitals are directed to use PPEs as per guidelines already issued. Cost of these if passed on to the patient should be justified and not unnecessarily included in the bill,” she added.
The order also reads that any such complaints by the patients will be viewed seriously and appropriate action would be taken.