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Friday, September 25, 2020

Bengaluru: Private hospitals allege delay in Covid-19 fee reimbursement, govt denies claim

The SAST officials have denied the charges saying the process of reimbursement has been active and the bills provided by the hospitals are "being cleared."

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru | Updated: September 4, 2020 8:23:56 am
Bengaluru, Ambulance, COVID-19Doctors revealed that non-Covid patients postponing surgeries "due to the fear of contracting coronavirus" is another reason behind the financial crunch.

Over a month after the Karnataka government directed private hospitals to reserve 50% of their beds for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, hospitals have accused the government of not reimbursing their bills as promised. This, the hospitals have said, has caused hurdles in payment to their staff and vendors providing infrastructure and products for treatment.

Dr Jagadish Hiremath of ACE Suhas Hospital in Jigani said such issues would not have arisen if the government was willing to pay in advance the healthcare providers for Covid-19 beds reserved under the government quota.

“The primary and fundamental premise of any collaboration is credibility and trust which is diminishing fast, thereby resulting in the system put in place being dysfunctional. While the government wants private hospitals to cooperate with them to provide care to maximum patients, they have, unfortunately. not been supportive towards us,” Dr Hiremath alleged.

He said that the hospitals are “overburdened” with the liabilities of paying vendors and staff salaries due to the delay in the promised reimbursement.

Meanwhile, Dr R Ravindra, President of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes’ Association (PHANA) told Indianexpress.com that repeated requests from them were left with no response from the Karnataka Department of Health and Family Welfare Services.

“We have written several times (since July) demanding the release of the payment for admissions made in government quota citing the challenges we face in maintaining the operational costs incurred in treating such patients. While the government agreed to pay 25 per cent of charges, most hospitals are yet to receive anything,” he said.

“On our repeated requests to Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust (SAST) for reimbursements, we were promised payments within three weeks. This should be implemented soon to ensure new patients get adequate treatment,” he demanded.

The SAST officials have denied the charges saying the process of reimbursement has been active and the bills provided by the hospitals are “being cleared.” An SAST official Thursday said, “We are now processing claims that we received in the last few days of August. To date, reimbursements have been paid to hospitals that have submitted bills dated till the third week of August.”

The official further alleged that they had found several instances where private hospitals in the city were demanding claims from the SAST even after charging the patients for their treatment. “Our call center team has found 44 private hospitals doing so. To date, 134 such cases have been identified after which we have recommended the Health Department to take action against them,” the SAST official added.

Meanwhile, a private hospital situated at Rajajinagar in the city alleged that their claims of Rs 40 lakh were responded with a payment of only Rs 1.5 lakh from the government. “We have treated 88 Covid-19 patients who were referred under the government quota by doctors concerned. However, even after weeks since we submitted their detailed bills, we have received a mere 4 per cent of the claims as of now. If this continues, we will soon run out of funds to continue operations sans compromises,” a top doctor at the hospital said.

Non-Covid patients postpone surgeries, pvt hospitals face cash crunch

At the same time, doctors revealed that non-Covid patients postponing surgeries “due to the fear of contracting coronavirus” is another reason behind the financial crunch. According to Dr Suriraju V, Managing Director of Regal Hospital, around 100 surgeries have been postponed in his hospital in the last few months due to the same.

“These include operations like removal of gall bladder stone, kidney stone, and Urology surgeries. Financially, it has been a humongous challenge to manage things as the expenses have increased by manifolds resulting in an exponential fall in the cash flow,” he added.

As on September 3, there are 40,440 active coronavirus cases in Bengaluru, contributing to over 40 per cent of the total active cases in Karnataka. The capital city has contributed the most to Covid-19 fatalities in the state too, according to statistics shared by the Karnataka Health Department. While the cumulative death count due to the pandemic in the state is 6054, at least 2066 of these have been reported from Bengaluru alone.

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