Amid reports of price gouging by private hospitals in the state, the West Bengal State Health Commission on Saturday directed them to reduce bed cost to pre-Covid charges, cap consultation fee to Rs 1,000 per visit and offer a 10 per cent discount on medicines.
“We came to know that in this pandemic situation, hospitals have hugely increased bed charges after the coronavirus pandemic. So, we have advised them to stick to bed charges billed on or before March 1,” said a member of the commission.
The directions were issued after the panel held a meeting at New Town Club after receiving complaints that private hospitals were demanding a fee upfront to admit patients and were handing over inflated medical bills. The panel fixed doctor consultation fee to Rs 1,000 per visit and a maximum of Rs 2,000 for more than one visit.
Headed by Justice Ashim Kumar Banerjee, the quasi-judicial body has doctors Sukumar Mukherjee, Maitreyee Banerjee and Gopalkrishna Dhali as its members.
The commission said that hospitals should either allow patients to buy medicines from shops not linked to them or offer a 10 per cent discount. Almost all chemist shops give a 20 per cent discount on medicines. The panel said hospitals should also give a 20 per cent discount on first-aid items such as cotton, syringe and bandage.
No hospital should turn away patients in any circumstances even if they failed to pay in advance, the panel said.
Private hospitals have been asked to display placards depicting bed charges at the reception and the Health Commission helpline numbers at the entrance.
Rupak Barua, president of Association of Hospitals of Eastern India and Group CEO of AMRI Hospitals, said medical cost is revised every financial year by 5 to 10 per cent after considering the inflation rate. “The same was done this year too. But bed rates were not increased for Covid treatment,” he claimed.
He appealed to the commission to discuss the issue of inflated bills and sought clarity on its advisories. He added that barring a few incidents of over-billing was not a standard practice.
“We have let the government know that private hospitals are there to support the state’s fight against the pandemic, and we are always at the service of the people,” Barua said.
The commission had on Thursday directed DESUN Hospital, a private hospital, to pay Rs 10 lakh in fine for demanding Rs 3 lakh in admission fees from a Covid positive patient who died inside an ambulance. The hospital was barred from taking any advance payment from patients.
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