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COVID-19: With Bihar Government Yet to Fix Treatment Rates, Private Hospitals Prey on Patients

The health department had asked district magistrates of all 38 districts to fix a rate for COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals in their respective districts last month. However, not a single district has done so yet.
Private Hospitals Prey on Patients

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Patna: With the Bihar government yet to fix a rate for COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals, facilities are charging exorbitant amounts for treatment. The local media is inundated with reports which say that private hospitals have been exploiting the situation in the name of COVID-19 treatment.

Take the case of Raj Kishor Prasad Singh. He was admitted to a reputed private hospital in Patna for treatment after he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. Prasad,a resident of Kankarbagh Colony, was in the hospital for six days. At the time of discharge he was asked to pay Rs 3.2 lakh.

What surprised his family members was that Prasad was neither on a ventilator nor was he in an ICU. He was only administered oxygen for two days following incidents of breathlessness. The private hospital also charged a hefty amount for PPE kits and under other headers.

In a similar case, Bikram Pratap was treated for COVID-19 for six days in another private hospital. He was discharged after paying around Rs 3 lakh for treatment. Pratap was in an ICU ward for two days without a ventilator.

These are two of hundreds of COVID-19 patients who were exploited for treatment by private hospitals. “Some private hospitals have set high rates for treatment without any concern for patients in distress,” said a private medical practitioner whose father is undergoing treatment at a posh private hospital for COVID-19 in Bihar’s capital.

In Patna, as in other towns across the state, private hospitals have been charging between Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per day for COVID-19. It is because the state government has not fixed rates for COVID-19 treatment. Over the past week, family members of COVID-19 patients staged protests at several private hospitals in Patna and elsewhere.

Taking note of the growing number of such complaints Pratyaya Amrit, Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, said that the government will fix a rate for COVID-19 treatment soon. The department had asked district magistrates of all 38 districts to fix a rate for COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals in their respective districts last month. However, not a single district has done so yet.

However, the department has now decided to review its earlier decision that the DM would fix the rates. Twenty-eight private hospitals in Patna have been sanctioned to treat COVID-19 patients as of now. However, the hospitals were reluctant to open their gates for such patients in July.

Dr. Sunil Kumar, Secretary of the Indian Medical Association, Bihar, said the government should immediately fix a rate for private hospitals for treatment of COVID-19. However, he said the rate should vary for different categories of private hospitals, according to the facilities provided. “The government should fix a maximum and minimum rate for treatment of COVID-19,” he said.

After the opposition and local media lambasted the “loot” by private hospitals in Patna, its district magistrate, Kumar Ravi, constituted a cell to probe allegations against private hospitals. He has hinted that there will be strict action against such private hospitals.

There are four government-run COVID-19-designated hospitals in Bihar, including AIIMS Patna. VIPs – including politicians, their relatives, top government officials, judges, businessmen and doctors – occupy most of the beds in government hospitals. The common folk are finding it difficult to get admission to these hospitals due to a lack of isolation beds, ICUs and ventilators. Given the situation, the majority of COVID-19 patients are in home isolation; only critical patients go to private hospitals for treatment.

The number of COVID-19 cases crossed the 86,000-mark in Bihar, with more than 450 deaths in the state as of now. Bihar had 3,741 cases on Wednesday, taking the total number to 86,482 cases.

Bihar tested 83,314 samples for COVID-19 on August 11, a state record for single-day testing. Most of the testing is being done through rapid antigen detection (RAD) kits instead of the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits.

According to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, testing by RT-PCR is still very low. He said that the state has been testing an average of 6,100 samples using RT-PCR kits. About 4,000 tests were being done by TrueNat machines and the rest by RAD kits.

The CM has already demanded help from the Central government in order to increase RT-PCR testing to one lakh tests per day.

Despite Bihar increasing its testing rate since the end of July, it is still lagging behind. The state's tests-per-million people was 9,180 on August 10, one of the lowest in the country and less than the national average of 18,086.

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