Private hospitals in Telangana are charging excessive amounts for COVID-19 treatment from patients and their families as the state witnesses a rapid surge in coronavirus infections across districts. With no effective mechanism in place for the officials to monitor the billing process of private hospitals, and as government hospitals are overwhelmed with inflow of patients, COVID-19 treatment has now become a costly affair in the state.
On Tuesday, one farmer Satyanarayana died in a corporate hospital in Madinaguda in Hyderabad after getting COVID-19 treatment for two weeks. His family said that they were charged Rs 12.5 lakh for the treatment which they managed to pay by mortgaging their agriculture land in Charla in Bhadradri Kothagudem district.
According to local reports and civil society volunteers providing COVID-19 helpline services, private hospitals are making massive profits by charging exorbitant fees from patients amid the raging pandemic.
“People are approaching private corporate hospitals hoping to get better treatment and they are being charged inflated fees. They are literally cashing the people’s fear of COVID-19 amid such distressing times,” said Sanjay Kumar, a doctor working in a government hospital in Hyderabad.
As of May 4, there are 77,704 active COVID-19 positive cases in the state with 6,361 new cases and 51 deaths reported in a 24 hour period ending 8 PM on Tuesday, as per official figures.
According to the state government’s dashboard of COVID-19 hospital bed availability, there are 8,553 oxygen and ICU (ventilator) beds vacant in private and government hospitals in the state.
In June last year, the state government issued an order fixing maximum rates chargeable by private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment. For instance, charges for one ICU bed with a ventilator is to be Rs 9,000 per day, but corporate hospitals are reportedly charging as high as Rs 1.25 lakh and above for ICU beds.
Further, in multiple instances, private hospitals are asking the caretakers of the COVID-19 patients to arrange medicines such as Remdisvir injections by themselves.
Opposition political parties are alleging that the state government failed to monitor the functioning of the private hospitals in the state as poor and middle class people are struggling to provide medical treatment to their families.
Telangana Congress Minority Cell president Shaik Abdullah Sohail demanded the government to conduct an inspection of private hospitals in the state.
Phanindar, a 48-year-old photographer, said that he was charged about Rs 8.5 lakh for COVID-19 treatment in a private hospital in Hyderabad.
Between June and August last year, when the COVID-19 cases were in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 daily cases in the state, the state health department received thousands of complaints against the private hospitals in Hyderabad with allegations ranging from excessive billing to not handing over dead body of patients for unpaid bills. However, as the state government has not taken any legal action against the management of such private hospitals on their business model amid the pandemic, they are continuing to charge inflated rates from the COVID-19 affected patients and their families.
On the other side, local newspapers suggest that the black marketing of COVID-19 medicines and oxygen cylinders has been rampant in the state since April.
People are worried over non availability of beds, shortage of medicines, ventilators, oxygen cylinders and testing kits across districts, said Tammineni Veerabhadram, secretary of state unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In a press statement, he said that the state government has been neglecting to implement the needed measures for the containment of the virus even as the private hospitals are cheating patients to make profits.