Panchkula Civil Surgeon Dr Jasjeet Kaur on Tuesday issued an order directing private hospitals not to overcharge patients for PPE kits used by doctors and other medical staff during surgeries.
The order, specifically marked to the president of the Indian Medical Association, Panchkula, as well as Paras, Alchemist and Ojas hospitals, said, “It has been observed that private hospitals are using PPEs irrationally and overcharging for them. All private hospitals are directed to use PPEs only as per issued guidelines and justify their costs being passed on to the patients…Any such complaints by patients will be viewed seriously and appropriate action taken.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Kaur said, “I had received three such complaints. This is a serious issue.”
Treatment in private hospitals for other ailments during the coronavirus pandemic is burning a hole in the pockets of patients, with many complaining that they were baffled by the variations in costs added to their bills for PPE kits used by their doctors and staff during their surgeries.
The Indian Express made calls to several private hospitals asking them one question — “How much do you charge for a PPE kit and how many on average are used?”.
The response: A delivery or other surgical procedure requiring a day’s stay at the hospital includes an additional Rs 5,000 on the total bill. Panchkula and Mohali’s leading hospital chains are at the forefront — charging their patients between Rs 1,200 and Rs 2,000 per PPE kit used.
“We charge Rs 1,200 each time a doctor has to use a gown or mask and Rs 1,500 per PPE kit being used by a doctor,” said a woman in the admissions department of a top-tier hospital in the Tricity.
This cost is being levied by all private hospitals, at least in the Tricity. “Everyone is charging for the PPE kits being used. Of course they will not incur the costs themselves. There are only two ways out of it, it is either charged to the patient or cut from the doctor’s salary. Now one can easily imagine which option they will go for,” said a senior cardiologist of a private hospital in Mohali on condition of anonymity.
The private health sector, which took a step back when the pandemic hit the country, is now resuming activity amid heightened vigilance.
Meanwhile, government hospitals led the fight in containing the spread and have had to shut down several of their OPDs and other services. The effect of this has been devastating, especially for those who require emergency services. They have had no option but to seek services from the private healthcare sector which is far most costly.
“My wife had a delivery and we had to take her to a private hospital. They charged us more than Rs 63,000. Around Rs 8,000 was charged the 5-6 PPE kits they had used,” said a resident of Sector 4, not wanting to be identified.
He added that it was not disclosed to him prior to the surgery that such a charge would be added. “It was written on the paper in very small font,” he said.
Sushmita Aggarwal, a resident of sector 7 said, “My mother had to undergo surgery for kidney stones. We had no option but to go to a private hospital. The simple procedure charged us more than Rs 1 lakh. She stayed at the hospital for two days. They charged us for 10 PPE kits. When we questioned them, they said it was now common knowledge and every private hospital was doing it.”
While these PPE kits cost an average Rs 700-Rs 800 each, private hospitals are charging upto almost double the price. Almost all hospitals said at least five PPE kits will be required in a simple surgical procedure.
Ojas Hospital in Panchkula has meanwhile reduced its PPE kit rates from Rs 1,000 to Rs 550 now. The billing department said, “We have procured new kits which are costing us lesser now. We used to charge higher prices earlier.”
“Due to Covid and the extra measures we are taking, we have extra costs as well, so we have to meet those costs through our income. It is for everyone’s safety,” said the media relations official for IVY hospital in Mohali, which is charging almost Rs 2,000 per PPE kit used.
Responding to a query by The Indian Express, a Fortis Healthcare spokesperson said: “Due to Covid, costs have increased for all hospitals as disinfection, sterilisations, infection control, PPE, setting up isolation wards, staff rotations and quarantines, responsible waste disposal and comprehensive disinfection…Physical distancing…and supply chain disruptions have led to increased cost as well. The treatment of Covid patients requires upgradation of infrastructure and protocols to ensure safety of healthcare personnel and minimising transmission between patients. As per the government directive, hospital medical staff who are in direct contact of the patients are advised to use good quality PPE kits and masks…Where PPE is required in treatment, cost of actual PPE being used is charged. In ICUs or wards with multiple patients, the total cost of PPEs is divided by the number of patients in the ward. Also, to ensure minimal impact on patient, PPE is being charged at much lower than the MRP.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines