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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Mumbai: Hospital violates govt guidelines, charges Rs 5,000 per day for oxygen

Zohra Shaikh, aged 72, was admitted on October 7 following a heart attack and breathlessness.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Updated: October 13, 2020 10:48:46 am
Mumbai: Hospital violates govt guidelines, charges Rs 5,000 per day for oxygenSmaller nursing homes and private hospitals continue to charge for bio-medical waste, personal protective equipment and oxygen for Covid-19 treatment, making healthcare unaffordable despite a slew of measures to cap prices by the state government. (FIle photo)

In violation of norms, for three days of hospitalisation, a 72-year-old Covid-19 patient was charged Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 per day for oxygen by a private hospital in the western suburbs. Smaller nursing homes and private hospitals continue to charge for bio-medical waste, personal protective equipment and oxygen for Covid-19 treatment, making healthcare unaffordable despite a slew of measures to cap prices by the state government.

The Borivali-based Apex hospital, which was denied permission to treat Covid-19 patients two months ago by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation over multiple complaints of overcharging, charged a patient Rs 92,620 for three days of hospitalisation. When the patient had to be referred to KEM hospital, her grandson, a cable and internet operator, had to assure free internet service to the hospital to facilitate transfer. “We did not have money, they were clearly charging exorbitantly but there was no time to lose. We urgently needed a transfer. So I had to promise them free internet for a pending bill of Rs 37,000,” said Arhaan Shaikh.

Bhagyashree Kapse, assistant commissioner in R-Central ward, said an inquiry will be initiated against the hospital. “We are receiving several complaints that the hospital is treating Covid patients despite our notice to stop Covid admissions. In the past too we got complaints of overcharging. The hospital does not inform us when it admits a coronavirus case, it is against norms,” she said.

In the latest case, Zohra Shaikh, aged 72, was admitted on October 7 following a heart attack and breathlessness. She was admitted in the intensive care unit. By October 8 her reports came positive for Covid-19. On October 9 she was referred to KEM hospital for further treatment. By then she was on non-invasive ventilator support with oxygen saturation lower than 90.

The hospital charged Rs 92,620 for three days, of which Rs 5,000 was charged per day for oxygen support of more than five litres per minute and Rs 2,500 for oxygen support less than five litres per minute. In its latest notification on August 31, the state government clearly asked hospitals to refrain from charging separately for oxygen. The bed cost of ICU or ventilator has to include oxygen charges. “We calculated oxygen requirement per Covid patient in ICUs. It does not cost the hospital more than Rs 300-400 per patient per day,” said Dr Sudhakar Shinde, who drafted the price capping notification.

Apex hospital has, however, charged both components separately, for ICU at Rs 4,500 per day and for oxygen at Rs 2,500-5,000 per day. It charged Rs 1,000 for personal protective equipment per day.

Apex hospital’s treating doctor Dinesh Sharma said the patient was admitted as a suspected case of Covid. “We can’t admit Covid positive patients. But we can treat suspected cases. She was admitted in ICU with myocardial infarction and treated symptomatically,” he said. Dr Jayesh Chaubey, in-charge of the hospital, said he has to check the details of the case. Dr Sangeeta Shah, co-founder of Apex hospital, said, “Their bill is still pending. We will look into the matter.”

Shaikh’s grandson Arhaan said the hospital was not ready to transfer her unless they paid entire amount. “She was critical and we were losing time. The hospital did not even help in finding us another hospital. We were left on our own,” he said. The family took the help of some social workers who arranged for a bed in another hospital. Shaikh passed away in KEM hospital at 2.35 am on Monday due to Covid complications.

BMC’s ward in-charge Kapse said each hospital is supposed to report Covid patients to the local ward office. “Apex has flouted several norms. The biggest complaint is of overcharging patients,” she said.

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