A few private hospitals in Mumbai, in a gesture of goodwill, accepted the now scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes from patients on Wednesday, though many tried to discourage patients whose admission was not immediately urgent. Private chemists’ shops in several areas also remained shut as they could not accept Rs 500 and Rs 1000 as legal tender.
Ainul Huq, a Nepal national, was admitted to Bhatia Hospital on November 6. On Wednesday, he was asked to pay Rs 1 lakh for a femoral neck surgery. With no debit or credit card, Huq could not issue a cheque of a Nepalese bank and requested the hospital to accept cash. According to him, he had left his native city with all cash converted into Indian currency, especially to pay his hospitalisation charges. “We had to finally accept the money he gave us. There was no other option,” said Dr Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO of Bhatia Hospital.
WATCH VIDEO: Here’s What The New Rs 2000 Note Looks Like
Another such patient from Gwalior, Sankalp Agrawal, paid Rs 4,489 in cash for shoulder arthroscopy as he had brought all cash from his home town with him. Several out-station patients in Mumbai bring cash from hometown for hospital procedures. On Wednesday, all such patients were forced to go around asking for change to pay hospital bills.
Rampur-based Raza Khan, 62, had travelled from Uttar Pradesh to get himself treated for tuberculosis at Hinduja hospital. A notice put up at cash counter asked patients to give only Rs 100 in change or pay by card. “He had Rs 10,000, all notes in Rs 1000 denomination. For doctor’s consultation fee of Rs 900, we had to call up different relatives and request for Rs 100 notes. For the poor and sick, it is a huge trouble to make financial arrangements,” said Nasir Shaikh, his nephew.
Even at Lilavati Hospital, cash in denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 was not accepted from Tuesday midnight.
“In cafeteria, relatives of patients faced a hard time as most patients had cash and not a debit card to buy food. Government should have allowed private hospitals also to accept cash,” said hospital vice-president Dr Ajay Pandey. The hospital had to discharge a few patients taking an undertaking from them that they will pay later.
According to the government, notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination will only be accepted at government-run hospitals for 72 hours since notification.
Bhatia Hospital has now written a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow private charitable hospitals to accept the older currency notes for 72 hours on “humanitarian grounds”. The Fortis Hospital group also made a representation to the government to allow the exemption.
Meanwhile, while private hospitals struggled to refuse patients coming in with invalid notes, major public hospitals in the city battled a shortage of Rs 100 change by afternoon.
“In out-patient department, patients are paying Rs 500 for a Rs 10 OPD check-up. We can’t even refuse to give them the change,” said dean Dr Avinash Supe. The city’s 22 BMC hospitals and four state government hospitals will be accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1000 from patients until Friday.
At JJ Group of hospitals, patients also came to OPD ward with Rs 500 and Rs 1000 for general check-up. “After our change was exhausted, we stopped accepting those notes and asked patients to get change,” said dean Dr T P Lahane. The hospital’s OPD also witnessed an increase by 500 patients Wednesday.
The BMC-run hospitals receive about 30,000-40,000 OPD patients every day and over 2,000 admissions — accounting for 30 per cent of the total patient load. With the remaining patient burden on private health care, the government move is likely to hamper hospitalisation procedures for one more day.