Tamil Nadu

Private hospitals fix ‘high’ rates for treatment

With no cap on the cost of treatment, a few private hospitals in the city, designated as COVID-19 treatment facilities, have fixed ‘high’ rates for patients. One such hospital is charging patients ₹70,000 a day for an isolation room, while another is requiring them to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) used by doctors and other staff every day.

Inquiries with a number of private hospitals in the city found that each of them were following their own pattern of charging patients under various heads. Most hospitals did not offer outpatient services for persons with symptoms of COVID-19, and were admitting patients for screening and testing.

At one such hospital in the heart of the city, patients are admitted to isolation rooms and their samples sent for testing. The cost per day is ₹70,000, and patients need to be admitted for a minimum of two days, until results of laboratory tests arrive, said the hospital staff.

The staff at another hospital in the southern part of the city said patients were being admitted based on their health condition. “If the patient needs to be admitted to the isolation Intensive Care Unit, the room charge per day is ₹10,000. The cost of COVID-19 testing is ₹6,000. The other heads are doctors’ fees and nursing charges. The patient has to pay for the PPE used by doctors every day — one set costs ₹4,000 to ₹5,000. So, till the laboratory test result arrives, a minimum of ₹60,000 will be charged a day,” a staff member said.

At a leading hospital, patients are being charged ₹70,000 on the first day of treatment, as they have to undergo screening, including a CT scan and a COVID-19 test. “The charges depend on the condition of the patient. If he/she is a diabetic, or has renal diseases, they will require longer hospitalisation, and [their] recovery will take time. Some may need ventilator support. The bill could be around ₹3 lakh-₹4 lakh or ₹12 lakh-₹14 lakh, or more, depending on their condition,” a hospital staff member said.

The family of an elderly patient, who was admitted to this hospital, was charged around ₹17 lakh.

C.S. Rex Sargunam, president, Tamil Nadu Health Development Association, said, “The government should rein in private hospitals and fix the treatment cost for COVID-19. It is the duty of the government to intervene, and also take steps to reimburse patients.”

An office-bearer of the Indian Medical Association-Tamil Nadu said the body had requested the government to provide coverage under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme to poor people visiting the designated fever clinics in private hospitals. The heads of a few private hospitals could not be reached for comment.

Official sources said that as of now, relatively few patients were undergoing treatment in private hospitals when compared to the patient population in government hospitals. “If a hospital charges inpatients ₹2 lakh, including the cost of consumables, how can people afford such an amount for 15 days [or more] of hospitalisation?” an official source asked.

Officials in the Health Department said it was difficult to bring about uniform treatment costs for private hospitals. “However, any complaints related to hospital charges could be brought to the notice of the joint director (Clinical Establishments Act) in each district,” an official said.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 3:41:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/private-hospitals-fix-high-rates-for-treatment/article31521886.ece

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