The unplanned extended suburbs of Mumbai have seen a spurt in Covid-19 cases, but hospitals are exorbitantly charging the patients, most of who are poor migrants
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI – Located at the north-western tip of the metropolis, where a creek cuts across from the east and joins the Arabian Sea, Mira-Bhayandar is home to almost a million people, many of who are migrants from across India.
Unplanned and rapid urbanisation over the past few decades has resulted in the construction of illegal buildings where there is hardly any open space. People live cheek by jowl in this extended suburb of Mumbai, making it a hotspot for all kinds of diseases.
Not surprisingly, Mira Road and Bhayandar – which are two different suburban railway stations – continue to see a growing number of Covid-19 cases.
According to a spokesperson of the Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC), total deaths have added up to almost 300. More than 18,000 people have been identified with Covid-19 and almost 10,000 are positive.
Worse, Mumbai’s extended suburb has seen private hospitals fleece patients who seek help.
Sadique Basha, an activist and head of the ‘Haq Hai’ movement in Mira-Bhayandar told Clarion India on Friday private hospitals in the extended suburb have been charging exorbitantly.
“Most of the hospitals do not comply with the norms relating to rates for tests and treatment,” he points out. “We have heated arguments with the hospital officials demanding cutting down of the rates for the poor patients who visit them.”
According to Basha, the sprawling Mira-Bhayandar extended suburb has virtually no public health facilities and all the patients have to go to private hospitals and clinics.
A few days ago, after activists complained about one such hospital that was charging excessively, the civic body banned it from treating Covid-19 patients. “But after overcharging hundreds of patients, they are now quite happy to stay closed for a month,” says Basha.
Private hospitals in Maharashtra have been asked to reserve 80 per cent of the beds for Covid-19 patients and charge them according to the rates provided by the government.
Basha reveals a bill in which a patient was charged Rs500 for a test using a pulse oximeter. “The average cost of a pulse oximeter is Rs750, and here they are charging Rs500 for a test,” he points out.
The municipal commissioner of MBMC, Dr Vijay Rathod, recently called a meeting of doctors from the area to thrash out the overcharging of patients and other problems faced by healthcare workers. The civic body has also promised to get the hospitals return the excess fees that they claimed from patients.
There have also been instances where hospitals in Mira-Bhayandar refused to hand over the bodies of patients who succumbed to Covid-19 as the relatives could not clear the bills.
Basha, who helped a patient’s daughter in getting her father’s body from one such hospital, said the bill amount was suddenly jacked up after the death of the person.