Worried patients are now turning towards the state government for help, following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes that has left them scrambling to make payments for medical care.
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Across Maharashtra, 173 complaints have been made against hospitals, doctors and nursing homes that have refused to accept notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, or turned away patients offering cheques as a mode of payment.
Mumbai has registered the highest complaints in state in the last three days, with 36 calls made to the toll-free helpline number 108 by the aggrieved patients.
Additionally, 941 calls were made to just inquire what procedures the private hospitals are following for accepting payments from patients.
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“We are directing all these calls to respective district civil surgeons. When the state government is intervening, hospitals are accepting cheques,” said Dr Satish Pawar, Director of Health Services (DHS).
On Monday, of the 67 complaints resolved by government officials, in only one case did the hospital refuse to cooperate. According to officials, an action will be taken against the hospital.
In Mumbai, confusion has prevailed in all private nursing homes and hospitals. At Dholkawala Maternity Home in Pydhonie, the administration admitted that it has not accepted a single Rs 500 or Rs 1,000
note since November 9. “We received no direct notification from the government to accept it,” said an official from the maternity home.
The current state government notification allows private chemists and government hospitals to accept old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, while instructions have been issued to the private hospitals to now accept cheques in case a patient cannot pay by card or in denomination of Rs 100.
A helpline was started by Health Minister Deepak Sawant on Sunday for the patients who were unable to make payments for medical services.
Mumbai has received 36 complaints since then, followed by Pune with 24 instances of treatment refusal, Solapur with 13 and Nagpur with 12.
According to Rafique Shaikh, a resident at Mohammed Ali Road area, all small nursing homes in South Mumbai continue to refuse cheques and cash in older currency. “These are cases that are going unreported. But patients are forced to ask others for money as most have no ATM card to pay. The problem in hospitals has still not been resolved,” he said.
There are however sympathetic doctors who are treating on credit basis. In Goregaon’s Guru Nanak Nursing Home, a four-month-old baby was admitted on November 13 for treatment of loose motions.
By Monday, after the father failed to exchange cash, the nursing home discharged the baby allowing the parents to pay in few days.
“There is no option. We need beds for other patients too. We have to work on trust basis,” said Dr Sudhir Naik, heading the nursing home.
Following state government’s helpline, doctors attached with Association of Medical Professionals (AMP) have also been instructed to
accept cheques and allow a grace period to patients if it bounces back.