THE Legal Metrology Department on Monday found eight city hospitals allegedly fleecing patients by selling packaged medical items without the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) printed, as mandated under the Packaged Commodity Rules (PCR). The agency’s probe found a huge difference between MRP charged by suppliers from the hospitals and the price billed to the patients. In some cases, the department found that the items were sold at four times the price charged by the suppliers. The packaged commodities in question included balloon device, angiography catheter, fabric natural fiber, IV catheter, guide wire, single limb anaesthesia, gloves and blood collector among other products.
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A senior officer from the agency told The Indian Express that in case of stents and balloons seized from the premises of the distributor identified as Spectrum Healthcare in Prabhadevi, the details of import and price of stent accessed by the authority revealed that while the items were bought at Rs 40,000, they were sold at Rs 1.30 lakh each. Amitabh Gupta, Additional Director General, Legal Metrology, told The Indian Express that they are in the process of writing to the authority concerned on alleged irregularities so that patients are not fleeced. “We will see the price-flow from the factory to the customer. The patient is charged for items used by surgeons who charge for the services they offer. There is no value addition in the product and it reaches in the same condition as shipped by the importer. Our probe will ascertain why the patients are charged more and where does the anomaly lie,” he said.
In case of Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Andheri, the agency found the MRP was not declared and the affixed additional sticker of month and year of manufacture on surgical gloves and weighing machine was not re-verified and stamped in the due period. When contacted, Dr Ram Narain, CEO at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital, said, “A team from the legal metrology department had come to Kokilaben Hospital on Friday 27th January 2017. Information about the price of stents and consumables to patients was requested. It was made clear that we have packages for coronary angioplasties where a stent and other consumables are included. We do not charge above the MRP for any of these items.” In some cases the agency found that stents were sold at Rs 1.1 lakh to patients.
In some cases, the complete details of importers and the date of import, MRP and the customer care number was not mentioned on PTCA guide wire and angiographic catheter. Also there is no declaration regarding manufacturing month and year and customer care number on hydrophilic siding catheter and ballon device. In case of Fortis Hospital in Mulund, it was observed that MRP on fabric natural fiber was smudged, complete name and address of the importer was not mentioned on the angiographic catheter among other anomalies. Fortis Hospital reverted to the query posed by the paper.
S Narayani, Director, Fortis, said “there is no over pricing” in the hospital. At Hiranandani hospital, a spokesperson said that a visit by the team was made but no observation on findings were conveyed to the hospital. The spokesperson of Asian Heart Institute denied the charges saying, “We vehemently refute these claims. The hospital charges at par or below the prescribed MRP,” the spokesperson said. At Global Hospital, CEO Manpreet Sohal, said, “There was a routine inspection that regularly takes place. No violations were observed.” He added that no notice has been issued or case registered in the matter.
According to spokesperson from HN Reliance Hospital, during the visit of Legal Metrology team it was informed that MRP on packaging is done by the manufacturer and not the hospital. During inspection, MRP on certain products was found missing. “It was decided to inform manufacturers to print it on the packets. The hospital is not responsible for it,” the spokesperson said, adding that no violations were made by the hospital.