julio 31, 2020
Last week, a private hospital off the EM Bypass allegedly asked the family of a 67-year-old Covid suspect to deposit Rs 4 lakh within two hours of adm
KOLKATA: Last week, a private hospital off the EM Bypass allegedly asked the family of a 67-year-old Covid suspect to deposit Rs 4 lakh within two hours of admission. The patient’s son told TOI that he was forced to leave the hospital to arrange for the sum. When he returned, he was told his father’s condition had deteriorated, and he needed ventilation. Since no ICU bed was available, he was asked to shift him to another hospital. The patient died the morning after.
A south Kolkata private hospital refused to admit a Covid patient until his family deposited Rs 5 lakh last Tuesday. They were told that the amount must be paid, even though the patient was covered by insurance. The patient was admitted after the payment was made.
Covid patients’ kin, desperately seeking hospitalization for their loved ones, are being confounded by an unexpected hurdle: a forbidding “advance deposit” which is often as high as Rs 5 lakh to 8 lakh. Some are even allegedly forewarning patients’ relatives that a week’s stay at the hospital could cost them Rs 10 lakh to Rs 12 lakh, scaring them away.
All hospitals, understandably, denied the charge. Several of them, however, admitted that they had been “forced to levy a token advance” of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 to make sure that patients on cashless insurance later cannot refuse to pay the “inadmissible” part of the bill, which is not covered in health policies. The deposit was also necessary, they said, because patients’ families were often finding it difficult to make periodic payments, since they were in quarantine themselves.
Patients, especially those on insurance, have been finding it difficult to bear the hefty advance. A south Kolkata Covid patient’s family was kept waiting for two hours, while doctors attended to him at the emergency ward. They were then asked to pay Rs 2 lakh and complete the admission formalities immediately. Their cashless insurance policy would not be accepted, the admission desk told them.
“I was taken aback, for I never expected this. I borrowed the money from a friend since it would have been impossible to shift him to another hospital,” said the patient’s son.
Another private hospital warned a media professional — who had sought admission for his Covid-positive father — that treatment cost could touch Rs 70,000 to Rs 80,000 a day and asked whether he was ready to bear it. He chose to take him to a nursing home in central Kolkata. A Barasat resident was asked to pay an advance of Rs 5 lakh by a private hospital off the EM Bypass, which told him that this was the “rule” for those who didn’t have insurance cover.
Hospitals claimed that patients’ kin had been refusing to pay the inadmissible part of their bills, the portions not covered by insurance. “This has been a persistent problem and has now become more acute. PPE charges are being turned down in insurance claims, inflating the inadmissible amount. And patients’ families are refusing to pay the amount turned down by insurance. because of the pandemic situation, it has become difficult to persuade them,” said the CEO of a hospital. At this hospital, patients who have cashless insurance are being asked to deposit Rs 50,000 and those without, Rs 20,000.
Another south Kolkata private hospital said it charges a deposit of Rs 50,000 for Covid patients on insurance because of the same reason. “We never set it as a condition for admission, but merely ask the patients’ kin to make the payment as early as possible. Over the last four months, numerous Covid patients’ families have refused to pay the part of the bill refused in cashless insurance. We make sure the amount is adjusted against the dues and the surplus, if any, returned,” said this hospital’s CEO.
A private facility off the Bypass said it had been forced to hike its deposit amount after several refusals.
Patients should lodge a complaint immediately if a hospital insists on a hefty deposit, said Rupak Barua, president, Association of Hospitals of Eastern India. “This is unethical and amounts to holding the patients’ kin to ransom. We urge patients’ families to lodge a complaint either with the health regulatory commission (West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission) or with us in case they are asked to pay a huge deposit,” Barua said.