Telangana: In the last three weeks, over 2,000 complaints have been reportedly lodged against Hyderabad’s private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment with the state health department. The complaints range from excessive billing to not handing over dead patients for unpaid bills in spite of the health minister’s warning against business over COVID-19 fear.
The peak reached on August 4-5, when over 200 complaints were filed against corporate hospitals with the state health department raising concerns about deflated bills against paid amounts, pressuring relatives of dead patients to collect dead bodies only after full payments of fees and not accepting patients will private insurance cover and so on.
A 51-year-old private employee told regional daily, Eenadu, that he was charged Rs 3 lakh for COVID-19 treatment for eight days in a private hospital in the city’s Hayathnagar. Moreover, the hospital has allegedly given him a bill receipt by cutting down 30% of the paid amount.
In another case, Sunshine Hospital in Secunderabad handed over the dead body of an ex-serviceman who died of COVID-19 to his family only after the intervention of state High Court.
Numerous reports suggest that private hospitals are insisting on cash payments from patients for getting admitted despite having valid insurance and government authorities and Insurance Regulatory and Development authority warning private hospitals against this.
Also read: Hyderabad: Private Hospitals Overcharge for Covid-19 Cases Despite Govt Order
Earlier this week, state Health Minister Eatala Rajender, while announcing the appointment of a vigilant committee to probe complaints against the activities of private hospitals during this pandemic, has said that it is incorrect for the hospitals to cash in on people’s fears. “We have received complaints that artificial shortage of beds has been created by private hospitals, due to which they are charging lakhs from patients and not admitting them without advance payments. Even asymptomatic people are being admitted and charged similarly,” stated Rajender.
So far, the state government has revoked permission of two private hospitals to treat COVID-19 including Deccan Hospital in Hyderabad’s Somajiguda after receiving multiple complaints of overcharging.
Experts have been cautioning the state government over the exorbitant charging of private hospitals since they have been permitted for COVID-19 treatment in the state. Although, the state government on June 15 has fixed a ceiling on prices chargeable for COVID-19 treatment by private hospitals -- charges for routine ward and isolation are fixed at Rs 4,000 per day and charges for ICU with ventilator and isolation is fixed at Rs 9,000 per day. However, several complaints of patients allege that the hospitals are charging as high as Rs 1 lakh for ICU beds per day.
As of August 6 evening (last reported by the state health department), 2,207 new COVID-19 positive cases have been reported taking the total reported cases to 75,257. With seven new deaths of COVID-19 on Thursday, the toll increased to 601.
Aarogyasri for COVID-19
Demanding the extension of Aarogyasri Scheme that provides free healthcare for poorer sections in private hospitals, left party leaders and several activists on Friday, August 7, marched to the Chief Minister’s office but were detained. For the last one month, opposition parties, including Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Communist Party of India have been holding protest demonstrations raising the same demand.
Telangana High Court has also questioned the state government for its inaction against the private hospitals while dealing with several petitions over complaints on private hospitals.
While hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on Wednesday seeking action against two corporate hospitals -- Basavatarakam Indo-American Cancer Hospital and Research Institute and Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad for not treating poor patients despite assurances, the HC stated, “These private corporate hospitals are allotted prime land by the State government at a concessional price on lease, based on an assurance that they will reserve 15 to 25% of beds for the poor and extend free consultation to 40% outpatients. But the two private hospitals have violated these written assurances and the two GOs (517 and 484 of 1981 and 1989) issued to this effect,” while tagging the PIL along with a batch of already existing 18 PILs on COVID-19.