Andhra Pradesh

Cashing in on a pandemic: Are private hospitals exploiting the situation?

The fire accident that killed 10 COVID-19 patients, including one who had already recovered and most who were with mild symptoms at a private care facility in a hotel here last week, has brought to the fore several shortcomings that were overlooked with the focus being on providing more beds and treatment facilities given the rapid rise in the number of cases.

Following the guidelines by the Central government, the State government has allowed hospitals to provide COVID-19 treatment to mild and asymptomatic patients at private COVID-19 Care Centres (CCC), which are extended facilities housed in hotels or any such buildings.

In Krishna district, 15 hospitals were given permissions to do so and four of them already started operations by the time of the accident. One of them was the Ramesh Hospitals which was designated as a Category-A COVID-19 hospital to treat critical patients at its 30-bed facility on M.G. Road in the city.

Also read: Government facilities fail scrutiny in Vizag?

Several violations

The hospital later chose Hotel Swarna Palace, one of the oldest hotels in the city, as its extension to treat asymptomatic patients. The district health wing and the district administration had permitted the same.

 

While the actual cause of the accident is yet to be revealed by the Fire Department officials, the hotel and the hospital managements were booked under various charges.

According to officials, the hotel has violated fire safety rules as well as building code while the hospital was found violating several rules, post the accident, which drew attention to such facilities.

Cashing in on a pandemic: Are private hospitals exploiting the situation?
 

Many hospitals across the State have set up private COVID-19 Care Centres in hotels and apartments owing to the demand from patients who don’t want to opt for government facilities which are mostly set up in buildings of educational institutions or couldn’t risk staying at home with children and elderly family members.

 

In the absence of a proper mechanism to trace COVID-19 patients in private treatment facilities, the hospitals have been reportedly collecting more fee than what was prescribed by the government. Some of the hospitals were quoting a certain amount before admission but were charging a higher amount before discharge, giving patients no option. Expenses towards disinfection, PPE, food and others are being cited as reasons for sudden hike in fee.

Unauthorised centres

 

Until Friday, the government only acted against the Ramesh Hospitals and found that it was not only charging exorbitantly from patients but was also running centres at two more hotels, Metropolitan and M5, in the city without any permission. Consequently, the hospital’s permission to treat COVID-19 patients has been revoked and the Department of Health has summoned its management to appear before it.

State and district-level committees were formed to inquire into the incident and the activities of the hospital.

State Disaster Response and Fire Services Director K. Jayaram Naik says that the exact cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. The department is going to look at fire safety at other such facilities once the inquiry committee’s report is out.

Probe panels

 

Meanwhile, soon after the incident, Krishna Collector A. Md. Imtiaz constituted four divisional-level committees with the respective tahsildar, fire officer and one official each from the health, police and electricity departments besides a municipal official as its members. The committees were asked to inspect all the COVID-19 hospitals and CCCs run by the government as well as the private sector and submit a report. The reports are yet to be submitted as more time was sought as of Friday.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 10:35:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/cashing-in-on-a-pandemic/article32370316.ece

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