The State government on Wednesday issued a show-cause notice to nine hospitals, including one government facility, for allegedly refusing treatment to a 52-year-old garment trader who battled breathlessness as several hospitals denied him treatment on Saturday. He subsequently died in front of another hospital. His COVID-19 test report returned positive on Tuesday.
The hospitals have been asked to reply to the notice within 24 hours and show cause as to why action should not be initiated against them under KPME Act, 2007, and the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Stating that it is a clear violation of providing medical assistance and admission necessitated under the agreed provision of KPME registration, Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey has asked hospitals to strictly adhere to the provisions under Section 11 and 11A of the KPME Act, 2007. These sections speak of the private hospitals’ responsibilities and patients rights.
Cannot refuse treatment
Chief Secretary T.M. Vijay Bhaskar had recently issued an order stating that private hospitals cannot deny or refuse treatment to COVID-19 patients or those with symptoms. With several cases of COVID-19 positive patients being denied treatment in private hospitals being reported, the State government is now serious about cracking the whip. “Penal action will be initiated that can even go up to to cancellation of the hospital’s KPME registration under the KPME and State Disaster Management Acts,” said a senior health official.
However, some of the hospitals that have been issued the notice said the patient was never physically brought to their hospital.
“We have been getting several calls everyday seeking a COVID-19 bed and if we have informed the caller that there is no bed available, does it amount to refusal or denial of treatment? My hospital - Suguna- is also one among the nine hospitals that has been served the notice. But physically the patient never came to our hospital,” said R. Ravindra, president, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA).
Agreeing that it was stressful for patients to run from one hospital to another seeking admission, Dr. Ravindra said this could be avoided if the government puts in place a nodal agency that can guide people on availability of beds.
“PHANA has suggested to the government that there should be a dedicated helpline and control room with real-time data on bed availability. It should function like the police control room. Callers to the helpline can be directed to the nearest hospital with bed availability and the hospital can also be informed by the time the patient reaches there,” he explained.
S.C. Nagendra Swamy, principal coordinator, Federation of Healthcare Associations of Karnataka (FHA-K), also said such a suggestion was made to the government. “We are hoping the government will implement this as it will enable seamless functioning of the system,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vijaylakshmi G.N., Medical Superintendent of Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, the government facility that has also been issued the notice, said her hospital had not refused treatment. “The patient was brought dead to our hospital and we have submitted this in our reply to the notice,” she said.