Farida Haq, 37, from Kabul, had withdrawn Rs 40,000 for an advance payment for a spine surgery at a private hospital in Delhi. When she went to submit her fee there were no takers.
“I had no idea that this change was due and was asked to bring an advance payment. I brought cash as I had got all my money converted into Rupees. I don’t even have a bank account in India. I don’t know if the bank will accept my passport as an identity proof and convert the money,” said Haq, who had come to Delhi in September for her surgery at IBS Hospital, Lajpat Nagar.
The hospital staff confirmed such incidents.
“We usually get about 75 patients a day but today we got about 45. Of these, we had to turn away some 15. It was a very stressful day,” said the front desk manager at IBS Hospital.
Twenty-three-year old Faruk from Kandahar met with a similar fate. “I had a consultation with the doctor at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute but once I reached here, other patients and guards told me there was no point trying to pay as no one was accepting big notes,” he said.
At Moolchand Hospital, several patients were forced to go back without getting a consultation as they were not carrying debit or credit cards. “We were forced to turn back a number of people because there was no way for us to pay. I don’t have a debit card and cannot withdraw cash from the bank. I have no idea what to do,” said B L Sharma, 85, who had gone to Dr Kalra Clinic in Sriniwaspuri.
Outside a medical store in Noida’s Sector 19, one among half a dozen customers slipped out of the queue near the billing counter and said, “I managed to give them a Rs 500 rupee note and get change in return.”
Inside the store, Gaurav Verma, who runs the shop, said, “I have turned down customers who had huge bills, the total amount would have been at least Rs 50,000. But all of them had Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes. What do we do? We are out of Rs 100 notes too.”
Meanwhile, at Kailash Hospital’s OPD in Noida, 59-year-old Bhagwati Mahto had about Rs 300 in cash while her bill was Rs 550. “I told them I only had Rs 300 apart from Rs 500 and 1,000 notes. They gave me a discount but they did not take the other notes,” Mahto said.
B K Rana, 58, on the other hand, had to borrow money from a friend to pay his medical bills. “They are not taking Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. I do not have a debit or credit card. I had to ask my friend to lend me some money so that I can pay the consultation fee,” Rana said.
A spokesperson for Kailash Hospital said patients were being given the option of paying through their cards or cheques if they did not have cash. “The bills of all inpatients have been put on credit from today (Wednesday). Those getting discharged today are paying through cheques. In some cases, we are letting them go in good faith. At the emergency ward, first aid treatment is being given on a complimentary basis or through cards.”