Private Hospitals Extort Money from Covid-19 Patients in Nagpur

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Volunteers handing over water bottles to passengers in a train at the Nagpur station.

Many hapless patients in Nagpur, one of the worst-affected districts in India with a large number of Covid-19 cases, are being fleeced by hospitals that demand hefty sums violating government orders

Ashok Kumar | Clarion India

MUMBAI – A pregnant woman, who was unfortunately also Covid positive, faced a major crisis in Nagpur recently. Private hospitals in the city, one of the worst-hit in Maharashtra, refused to admit her, though she was in a precarious condition.

One hospital demanded Rs5 lakh in advance for admitting her and conducting a Caesarean delivery of her child. Her family members pleaded and approached some NGOs, who then urged the hospital to reduce the amount.

Finally, she got admitted but had to shell out Rs1.5 lakh for the delivery. Private hospitals in Nagpur have gained notoriety in turning away patients who are unable to meet their hefty demands.

“Patients who are serious are being turned away in Nagpur,” Anasuya Kale Chhabrani, president, Swachh Association (and now part of #togetherwecan, an umbrella body of 150 Nagpur-based NGOs, working together to tackle the crisis) told Clarion India on Tuesday. “At times of such crisis, the hospitals need to be more understanding and should display human touch. But many are not bothered.”

Anasuya Kale Chhabrani, president, Swachh Association (and now part of #togetherwecan) talking to a journalist.

Private hospitals, under the new rules that have come into force after the Covid-19 crisis unfolded, are supposed to reserve 80 per cent of the beds for patients who will be charged as per the government’s norms. For the remaining 20 per cent beds they can charge their usual rates.

“But most hospitals here ignore these rules and charge patients excessively,” explains Chhabrani. “When patients cite the government rules they turn them away claiming there are no vacant beds.”

She also cites the example of how many hospitals and labs in Nagpur fleece patients wanting Covid-19 Real Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RTPCR) tests done.

Such tests at government-approved labs do not cost much, but many non-government hospitals demand RTPCRs from private labs, some of which charge as high as Rs5,500.

But it’s not just small private hospitals that tend to fleece patients. The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) directed Wockhardt’s dedicated Covid hospital (DCH) to return the excess amount it charged Covid-19 positive patients.

The civic body has warned the corporate hospital of strict action under various rules if it failed to return the excess amounts to patients. Similar warnings have been issued to another corporate healthcare centre, Seven Star Hospital.

NGO representatives being briefed by the police about the preparedness to fight the spread of Coronavirus.

Municipal commissioner Tukaram Mundhe ordered both hospitals to take immediate steps to return the excess money charged from Covid-19 patients.

In another shocking incident, a private hospital refused to hand over the body of a patient who succumbed to Covid-19 until her relatives cleared the outstanding bill. They had to pay exorbitant rates of nearly Rs40,000 for every day’s stay at the hospital, which incidentally was not authorised to treat Covid-19 patients.

Nagpur and other parts of Vidarbha region (which includes 11 districts) have seen a spurt in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days. Nagpur is one of the worst-hit districts in Maharashtra; on Monday, the city reported nearly 900 cases of Covid, almost the same as Mumbai. And Vidarbha is almost touching the 25,000-mark, with more than 1,300 new cases reported.

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