There is a large difference between the amounts being charged for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in private and public hospitals, revealed a story published by IndiaSpend. It also said that some hospitals are using fewer PPE kits per patient, leading to varied PPE costs for patients.
Earlier, IndiaSpend had reported that the controversially high prices usually charged by private hospitals in India have been further distorted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the central government and courts have stepped in to regulate some prices, most prices remain unchecked. For example, the Supreme Court has set a cap of Rs 4,500 on RT-PCR testing, the Delhi High Court mandated that antibody kits be sold to the Indian Council for Medical Research at Rs 400 and the government capped the prices of hand sanitisers and surgical masks. However, there is no cap on the price of PPE kits yet.
While the private hospitals charge an unregulated amount of money for usage of PPE, the government hospitals are struggling with a shortage of PPE. The report said, “Another critical aspect of the PPE story in India is the contradiction between the private sector, apparently flush with PPE and charging patients as much as Rs 10,000 per day for it, and the public sector, which does not charge patients for PPE, but is struggling to meet requirements, in terms of both quantity and quality.”
Since the pandemic spread, India has witnessed protests and complaints by healthcare workers from the public sector about shortage and poor quality of PPE kits. On June 3, nurses at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, organised a sit-in at the hospital to protest against their working conditions during the pandemic.
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At press conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic, the health ministry representative has often said that there is no shortage of PPE in the country. However, the same representative has also asked hospitals to stop using PPE in an “irrational” manner. On May 30, the central government had announced that it had provided 9.6 million PPE units and 11.9 million N95 masks to states, union territories and central government institutes. Earlier, on May 25, the government had said that more than 3,00,000 PPE coveralls and N95 masks were being made in the country daily. There were more than 300 PPE manufacturers in the country and nine labs where those who want to make PPE coveralls could send samples to, the government said.
However, despite all of this, health workers in the public sector have had to protest or complain about the shortage and/or poor quality of PPE kits being provided to them time and again, unlike the healthcare workers from the private sector.
The report said, “At a hearing in May 2020 on a petition demanding “cost related regulations” for treatment of COVID-19 patients in private/corporate hospitals, the Supreme Court asked why private hospitals that had received free land from governments to construct hospitals, should not be required to treat COVID-19 patients free of cost. The Centre, in its reply in June 2020, said it had no legal powers to ask private hospitals to give free treatment, and this matter was in the domain of states. The matter is still being heard in the Supreme Court.”