Lack of transparency in the Delhi government’s enforcement of its rate caps on Covid-19 treatment has left patients running from pillar to post to get their grievances related to overcharging addressed.
Relatives of at least five Covid-19 patients treated in private hospitals in the national capital after the Delhi Health and Family Welfare Department notified maximum treatment package rates for Covid related treatments claimed, during a virtual press briefing on Saturday, that they had been overcharged. In addition to this, the relatives detailed difficulties with getting their complaints addressed by the government, with some even stating they resorted to relying on members of political parties to help them raise their issues with the government or the hospital.
While all five patients have lodged complaints with the hospitals and government authorities, only two of the five have been resolved “after a lot of effort”, said Malini Aisola of patient activist group All India Drug Action Network, who has aided several patients in addressing concerns related to overcharging during this time.
Around 20 civil society groups on Saturday wrote to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seeking not only action on such patient complaints, but also the establishment of a mechanism to address patient complaints and proactive steps to audit private facilities.
“The government must institute a formal grievance redressal mechanism for timely redressal of formal complaints against private hospitals,” stated the groups in their letter. It has also sought a live database that is publicly available and provides details of complaints filed, including date, name of the hospital and details of action taken.
One of the reasons that patients have had to struggle with overcharging is because there is currently no mechanism in place for grievance redressal to which they can direct complaints about being overcharged, said AIDAN’s Aisola.
“Even civil society bodies like ours have had to do a lot of guess work in finding out who these patients can submit their complaints to. Please tell me why the patients are having to deal directly with the hospitals without any governmental intervention? In every single case, the family is running around,” she said.
Emailed queries to Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain and principal health secretary Vikram Dev Dutt on Saturday evening about these issues remained unanswered by press time.
“Because patients are often unsuccessful at dealing with powerful hospitals or have constraints in pursuing complaints when the patient is admitted or critically ill, the government must proactively enforce such as through audits, issuing of warning letters and penalising hospitals for transgressions,” added Aisola.
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