Hyderabad: The Telangana government, on June 16, after a prolonged public demand capped the cost of Covid-19 test conducted in a private lab at Rs 2,200 and fee for treatment in private hospitals from Rs 4,000 to Rs 9000 per day, depending on the use of some equipment.
However, the cases of Covid patients’ families struggling to settle hospital bills seem to be unending. In a recent incident, the family of a deceased Covid-19 patient was denied his body by KIMS Hospital for non-settlement of hospital bills.
For seven days of treatment, the hospital charged the patient Rs 4.25 lakh. The 64-year-old patient was admitted in the COVID special ICU of KIMS Hospital on June 19. The hospital bill, a copy of which is with NewsMeter, has charged the patient Rs 76,444 for medicines under pharmacy charges and Rs 61,500 for 41 PPE kits.
“During the treatment period, we had managed to pay Rs 1 lakh by borrowing from people. Following the death of my uncle, the hospital informed us the total treatment cost is Rs 4.25 lakh, which was exorbitant. The hospital denied releasing his body without paying the balance amount. Some of the local political leaders interfered and they managed to get the Hyderabad police to the place,” said a family member of the deceased.
It was after the police intervened, the hospital management agreed to offer the family a discount in the medical bill and they were asked to pay Rs 3.25 lakh to release the body.
However, this is not a lone incident in the city. On Sunday night, the family of an ailing couple in Hyderabad was forced to run from pillar to post to shift one of them to another hospital due to un-affordable medical bills.
“Both my parents were admitted to Omega Hospital for COVID treatment. The hospital was charging Rs 1 lakh per day for each of them. We could not afford it. We thought of shifting our father to Rainbow Hospital by settling his bills but the hospital insisted us to settle our mother’s bills before shifting our father to another hospital. I don’t understand the logic behind this. They remained firm and also insisted that we pay cash and were not ready for payment by online transfer,” explained the son of the couple to NewsMeter.
However, the family arranged Rs 1.7 lakh pooled from some donors and managed to shift the father to Rainbow Hospital.
In another incident, a female Covid-19 patient from Talabkatta was charged Rs 9.7 lakh by Sunshine Hospital.
Lack of attention and poor treatment of Covid-19 patients at government hospitals in Telangana has been hitting headlines in the recent days. It should also be noted that no legislator or their family members infected with Covid-19 had been admitted in state-run hospitals. Many citizens have lost confidence in government hospitals that they are now approaching private hospitals hoping that they would be able to afford the bills as the government had imposed cap on the charges.
According to an order issued by the special chief secretary (medical and health) A. Santhi Kumari, the hospitals, however, could charge additionally for PPEs, interventional procedures like bronchoscopy, biopsy and pleural tapping, administration of high-end drugs and high-end investigations like CT-Scan, MRI, PET scan, etc.
“Private hospitals are charging Rs 30,000 for sharing rooms to Rs 60,000 for suites. For ICU, it is around Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000. Also the pharmacy charges increase for patients put on ventilators. The hospital bills really show that the price slab imposed by the Telangana government doesn’t really work,” said the kin of a Covid patient who was admitted in a private hospital.
However, private hospitals maintain that the expenses for Covid-19 treatment will come up to the range of any other treatment and that PPEs would add to the expenses.
“Medical care is often considered free in India but somebody’s money is going into it. It is taxpayers' money going into treatment costs in government hospitals. Similarly, in private hospitals, the kin of the patient pay. Comparing a funded-system like government hospitals to private hospitals is not fair. Government hospitals only need to look at the running cost but private hospitals also need to take care of the capital cost,” said a senior doctor in-charge of Covid-19 cases in Appolo hospital told NewsMeter under the condition of anonymity.
The doctor further added that the private hospitals have to make a lot of arrangements for treating the Covid-19 patients and hence, the cost of treatment has to be worked out taking into consideration all such factors.
“The only additional expenditure for Covid-19 is that of PPE kits. The treatment cost is otherwise the same. However, Covid-19 treatment involves extra effort as there is the risk of infection getting spread. We have to create separate isolation facilities, wards and ICUs for Covid-19 patients and that too without causing any inconvenience for other patients. We have to have dedicated manpower, including doctors and para-medical staff, exclusively to deal with Covid-19 patients. A ward that can accommodate 200 beds will have only 50 beds, if we have to provide treatment for Covid-19 patients, which means 150 beds will have to be empty. This will be a huge loss to the hospitals,” the doctor from Appolo added.