In the wake of rising complaints of exorbitant bills against private hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, the Telangana government has now directed these hospitals to display the rates/charges of their various services at prominent places of the hospital for the benefit of patients. These rates/charges should be applicable as of December 31, 2019.
Further, ‘high-end drugs’ and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), which are excluded from the package price, have to be charged only at the Maximum Retail Price. The MRPs of these drugs and PPEs, too, have to be displayed in prominent places, according to the office of the director of Public Health and Family Welfare, which has also directed these hospitals to provide itemised bills to the patients.
Over the last few weeks, according to health minister Eatala Rajender, the office of DPH has received at least 1,039 complaints against several private hospitals. The complaints range from excessive billing for treatment, lack of proper medical care, collection of huge sums of money in advance for hospital admission, refusal of treatment, denial of insurance and credit card payments, or even refusal to hand over the body of the deceased until clearance of medical bills, etc.
The health minister during a review meeting had stated that complaints are being raised against almost all private hospitals and warned them of stringent action. He had warned that over 50 per cent of beds in all private hospitals, including ICU beds, will be taken over if the private hospitals did not offer treatment as per government terms.
The state government recently barred two hospitals, namely Deccan Hospitals and Virinchi Hospitals, from offering treatment to COVID-19 patients after inquiries conducted by the Hyderabad district medical and health officer found them guilty of excessive billing.
The office of DPH, in its orders, reiterated that complaints are received against some private hospitals that they are charging exorbitant rates for treatment and the price ceilings fixed by the government are not being followed.
“It is felt that there is a need to introduce greater transparency in the rates that can be charged by private hospitals so that people are made aware of the same and they are in a position to verify the correctness of the bill raised by private hospitals,” the order reads.
While discharging the patients, the order reads, itemized bills have to be given to them, as certain complaints are received stating that detailed bills have not been given to them. “Any deviation from these instructions will be viewed seriously and action will be initiated as per provisions under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the Disaster Management Act of 2005, and the Telangana Allopathic Private Medical Care Establishments(Registrations and Regulations) Act, 2002.
The state government had fixed a price ceiling on COVID-19 treatment for private hospitals on June 15.
As of date, Telangana has a cumulative COVID-19 caseload of 84544 persons. Of them, 22,596 are active and under treatment. The number of patients under home or institutional isolation as of date stands at 15,534. As many as 654 persons have succumbed to the viral infection as of August 11, according to the government data.
At present, 116 private hospitals are offering COVID-19 treatment across the state. Of them, 67 are in the Greater Hyderabad region. They alone treat 3,328 of the total 4448 patients admitted in private hospitals across the state. On the whole, 7,775 beds are available in private hospitals and 3,327 of them are vacant as of date.
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