Days after the Karnataka government pulled up a private hospital for over-charging COVID-19 patients by asking them to refund lakhs of rupees, the menace is yet to see an end.
On Wednesday, Minister K Sudhakar, who is in-charge of the COVID-19 in the state, slammed another hospital for ignoring the governments warning.
In a tweet, the minister expressed disbelief that COVID-19 patients were being charged over Rs 5 lakh by private hospitals.
A bill posted by the minister on his Twitter handle was about a patient who was admitted to the general ward of the hospital on July 8. The man had to shell out a total of Rs 5,15,319 of which Rs 1,30,495 was for equipment and Rs 68,900 was room rent.
ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ಶೇಷಾದ್ರಿಪುರಂ ಅಪೋಲೋ ಆಸ್ಪತ್ರೆಯಿಂದ ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕರಿಗೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ತೊಂದರೆಯಾಗ್ತಿದೆ ಎಂದು ತಿಳಿದು ಬಂದಿದೆ. ಈಗಾಗಲೇ ಅನೇಕ ಬಾರಿ ಆ ಆಸ್ಪತ್ರೆಗೆ ವಾರ್ನ್ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದೇನೆ. ಆದರೂ ಇಂದು ಕೊರೊನಾ ರೋಗಿಗೆ 5 ಲಕ್ಷ ಬಿಲ್ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ ಎನ್ನುವ ಸುದ್ದಿ ಕೇಳಿ ಆಘಾತವಾಯಿತು 1/2 pic.twitter.com/hoWD1JRfxU— Dr Sudhakar K (@mla_sudhakar) July 29, 2020
Despite beds being reserved under the Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust for patients referred by the government, many of these hospitals are admitting infected people under private quota. The government has asked private hospitals to reserve 50 per cent of their beds for those referred by the administration.
Last week, Karnataka Chief Secretary Vijay Bhaskar set up a team of IAS and IPS officers to conduct routine checks at private hospitals to ensure beds are made available as well as check that patients availing treatment under the government scheme are not over-charged.
On one such inspection at SS Sparsh Hospital on July 23 by IPS officer Roopa Moudgil and team brought to the notice of authorities that the hospital was charging patients an average of Rs 1 lakh as deposit. The hospital was forced to refund the said amount to 22 patients.
"Most of the 22 patients went on their own. They had developed some symptoms and probably did not have much knowledge. So they panicked and went to the nearest hospitals. The authorities there should have educated them. They didn't do so. They took them as private patients. Even there, the government has given what rates should be charged even if admitted privately. When we found out what was happening, we asked them to transfer them as government referrals. Thankfully the hospital cooperated" said Moudgil.
However, there is a lot of ambiguity regarding admission of patients as private ones. When CNN News 18 reached out to Apollo Hospital, an official said, “In the said case, the patient has been in the hospital for the last 21 days, which includes nine days in the ICU, and the billing is as per the tariff agreed with insurance company.”
“At Apollo Hospitals, we maintain strict transparency and the treatment and cost of care is clearly discussed upfront with the patient and/or family. Our first responsibility is to our patients and we are working round-the-clock to ensure that they get timely and proper treatment”
Patients who received refunds from private hospitals have hailed the government’s initiative and expressed gratitude for its move.
A family member of a patient said the entire amount was refunded and the intervention of the government at this point deserves appreciation.