The government hospitals in Chennai are flooded with patients as the spike in cases continues to break records almost every day. The biggest single-day spike of 1,149 cases in the state on May 31 has taken the total positive cases beyond 22,000. Chennai alone accounts for 14,802 cases with 6,781 active cases. The spike in numbers is forcing people to seek treatment from private hospitals.
With the government hospitals running out of beds, the private hospitals seem to be milking the situation. These hospitals have rolled out multiple package schemes for COVID-19 patients starting from Rs 3 lakh.
The government of Tamil Nadu has finally intervened after the news of private hospitals charging exorbitant fees for treating the novel coronavirus patients spread. The details of the treatment fee have not been made public so far. The government has also warned the private hospitals of strict action on the complaints of overcharging the patients.
Dr. C S Rex Sargunam, president of Tamil Nadu Health Development Association (TNHDA), said, “The private corporate hospitals are taking advantage of the pandemic. The fear of the people is being exploited. High fees charged by these hospitals should be dealt with severely by the government. The only objective of the hospitals even during such a pandemic is profit, which is why the public health system needs more attention.”
Chennai, dubbed as the health capital of the country, houses numerous specialty and multi specialty hospitals. The treatments are reported to be highly effective, but are not affordable to the needy. The charge for treatment with ventilators can go up to Rs 1.25 lakh per day. Many hospitals insist on advance payment before admitting the patients. The charges for room rent and the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits are unimaginably high.
The room rent varies between Rs 5,000 and Rs 12,000 while cost of PPE is Rs 10,000 per day. The fee for COVID-19 confirmation test also varies from Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 [even though the government had fixed a cap of Rs 4,500 for private labs until recently].
“The capacity of the government hospitals is fast drying up as the number of cases continue to increase every day. The government should ensure that every single patient is extended affordable and basic medical care in the private hospitals,” added Dr Rex.
The lack of psychological support and abysmal facilities in the government quarantine centres force the patients, particularly the senior citizens, to take refuge in the private hospitals.
In this context, the health minister and secretary reportedly convened a meeting of the private health providers. Only time will tell what impact the ‘strict warning’ issued by the state government has made on the private hospitals.
The network of public healthcare system, from medical colleges to primary health centres, has helped the fight against the pandemic. The failure of containment measures, particularly in Chennai has undermined the role of the healthcare system. The demands of the Federation of Government Doctors Association for filling up the vacancies and improving the doctor- patient ratio stand justified during the crisis.
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