A 70-year-old man, who never contracted the coronavirus, was discharged from the isolation ward of a private COVID-19 hospital in Indore after 34 days.
The only member in his family to have tested negative, the man, a blood pressure patient, could not be left behind at home unattended. So, he too was admitted to the hospital along with 20 family members and waited as they were cured one by one. He was the last to step out.
“He was worried about catching the infection, and asked me over and over again when they will discharge him,” said his 22-year-old son, who had to stay back for his father, despite being cured five days earlier. The man underwent four tests and all were negative. Whenever a family member walked out, they requested that he be discharged too, but to no avail.
Many COVID-19 patients, and their family members complain that private hospitals arbitrarily delayed their discharge. Most had their samples taken four-five times, many were not even informed of the results.
A high test pendency earlier and delay in sample collection by private hospitals, claimed district officials, had resulted in patients being discharged late. Ideally, a person has to test negative twice back to back 14 days after the samples are collected to secure a discharge.
A 69-year-old man remained admitted at a private hospital along with his family for a month. Their samples were taken five times. “We were told our file was lost. So they took the last two samples again before discharging us,” he said. Another man, 55, is yet to be told the status of his sample taken on April 21.
An official in Indore’s COVID-19 team, requesting anonymity, claimed private hospitals were wilfully delaying entering sample details online on the State portal to delay patient discharge and show their bed capacity to be full. “This way they can save expenses and don’t have to admit new patients,” she said.
Impacts recovery rate
In Indore, five government-run hospitals and 16 government-backed private hospitals are helping combat COVID-19.
Delaying discharge, in the State’s hardest-hit city would mean pulling down the recovery rate. While it was 7.5% as of April 23, it climbed to 22.5 by May 3.
District Chief Medical and Health Officer Pravin Jadia admitted that backlog of samples had earlier caused the delay in discharge. “Sometimes it had taken even 10 days. Now test reports are issued the next day.”
A 65-year-old gazal singer, suffering from pneumonia, remained admitted to a private hospital for 17 days. Although he was not cured, he had to shell out ₹2.2 lakh for treatment. “He was discharged after the second test and the hospital later called to say he had actually tested positive. We have filed a complaint with the Chief Minister’s Office,” his son said.
Similarly, Sanjay Khetpal was kept for 10 days at another private hospital, where he spent ₹1.1 lakh, of which ₹38,900 was ‘item charge’. “Although it is a COVID-19 hospital, they charged me for PPE kits,” he said.
Amit Bhatt, Deputy Director Medical Services, at the hospital, said, “We are charging for the kits as we are buying them on our own.”
However, Dr. Jadia, the CMHO, said, “COVID-19 hospitals can’t charge for PPE kits. We are supplying them with enough.”