While hearing of several cases alleging overbilling by private hospitals and nursing homes, the West Bengal Health Regulatory Commission has suggested that such hospitals should allow patients to purchase medicines from outside in non-emergency cases. Justice Asim Kumar Roy, Chairman of West Bengal Health Regulatory Commission, said: “We had come across a few cases of overbilling… wherein we suggested to some of the private hospitals that they should give an option to patients to purchase medicines from outside in case of non-emergency treatment.”
Officials in the Commission said the private hospitals charge patients exorbitantly for use of syringes, cannula and catheters. “More than 45 per cent of the bill includes charges for medicines on account of which hospitals make huge profits. If patients are allowed to buy medicines from outside in non-emergency cases, we believe it will be cost-effective for them,” said an official.
If any patient still wants the hospital to take care of the entire treatment, he or she can convey the same to the hospital, the official added. When asked about the commission’s suggestion, CEO of Bell Vue Clinic, Pradip Tandon, said if this rule is followed, then hospitals won’t be able to guarantee the genuineness of the medicines.
“All hospitals insist that the medicines should be purchased from their own pharmacies because they have the responsibility to provide genuine medicines,” he said. Tandon added that if any patient wants to buy medicines from outside, he or she has to speak to the hospital management and get special permission. “The patient has to submit original cash memos, along with photocopies, showing the expiry dates of medicines… and declare whether the same have been purchased from a standard shop. The patient also has to give a declaration that in case anything goes wrong due to the medicines, the hospital will not be held responsible,” he said.
The commission, which was set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee last year to monitor the billing and performance of private hospitals and nursing homes, has been receiving complaints of overcharging by patients. It has been hearing such cases since last year.
“To make more profits, hospitals prescribe medicines that are branded and only available in their in-house pharmacies,” said Arnab Dutta, who has lodged a complaint with the Commission in regard to overcharging by a private hospital.