After overcharging plaints, more price caps for private hospitals treating coronavirus patients in Mumbai?Updated: Apr 18, 2020 00:23 IST
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) may add further caps to the price of Covid-19 treatment at private hospitals after receiving complaints of inflated bills from patients and doctors. While experts have welcomed the move, some private hospitals have raised concerns because they are running at financial loss.
Additional municipal commissioner (health) Suresh Kakani said he has received complaints of overcharging and will soon meet with representatives of private hospitals to discuss the issue. “Along with private hospitals, I have also received complaints about private laboratories who are charging extra for personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. We are looking into the matter and trying to bring a standardised price rate,” he said.
A doctor, who works in a BMC-run isolation ward, has filed a complaint with the civic body and state health department on the issue of inflated charges at private hospitals. “There is need to bring regulations on the daily usage of PPE,” she said.
In March, the BMC allowed 12 private hospitals to set up isolation wards to treat Covid-19 patients. These hospitals can charge either Rs 4,000 per day or restrict bed charges to 50% of the total bill. However, the guideline did not mention costs of testing, safety kits and diagnosis. Patients have since complained that private hospitals are overcharging.
A 56-year-old resident of Dadar and her husband tested positive for Covid-19 and were admitted to a private Hospital in south Mumbai on April 3 and April 4 respectively. When they were discharged on April 12, their hospital bill was Rs 4 lakh. “We didn’t know it costs around Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000 per day. They [the hospital] included the price of safety kits in the bill,” said the woman.
Private hospitals point to the sharp rise in the price of PPE (each kit costs between Rs1,200 and Rs1,500). A doctor can wear the PPE for four hours at a time. This along with medicines and bed charges results in high costs.
“Private hospitals have to buy their own PPE and if the municipal corporation wants to put a blanket on the bill price, they should provide the safety kits to hospitals free of cost. Hospitals across the state are facing monetary loss. So they can’t afford to shoulder the responsibility of PPE,” said Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president, Indian Medical Association (IMA), Maharashtra.
However, Kakani said, “There is no need to use a single PPE kit for an individual patient. They can treat several patients wearing the same safety kits. So, it is unfair to charge each patient separately.”
Health experts have welcomed the move to standardise the price of Covid-19 treatment at private hospitals. “This is a pandemic situation so there is need to bring a standardised price rate not only for PPE, but also for medicines, ventilators and other services. If we keep the service charges open-ended, private hospitals will exploit it to meet their own financial needs,” said health expert Dr Anant Bhan.