A special audit of 17 private hospitals in Thane has found Covid-19 patients were overcharged to the tune of Rs 1.82 crore for treatment.
Following this, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has directed all the hospitals to refund excess amount to the patients.
Between July 10 and August 21, eight teams of auditors were appointed following a string of complaints received by the civic body regarding inflated bills.
An auditor said the 17 hospitals submitted 4,106 bills of Covid-19 patients. Of them, 3,347 have been scrutinised and at least 1,362 bills were found inflated. “The total excess amount is Rs 1.82 crore,” the auditor added.
The 17 hospitals under scanner are Vedant hospital, Titan hospital, Siddhi Vinayak maternity hospital, Arogya multi-specialty hospital, Kaushalya hospital, Thane health care hospital, Metropol multi-speciality hospital, Life Care hospital, Panandikar hospital, Swastik hospital, Ekta hospital, Bethany hospital, Sapphire hospital, Kalsekar hospital, Wellam hospital, Swayam hospital and Diya multi-specialty hospital.
On May 21, the Maharashtra government had passed a notification reserving 80 per cent beds in private hospitals for Covid-19 patients and introduced a price cap on their treatment. As per the notification, while a patient in the isolation ward cannot be charged more than Rs 4,000 per day, those in intensive care units (ICU) needed to shell out Rs 7,500 per day. Ventilator charges were capped at Rs 9,000 per day.
TMC officials said they started receiving complaints about overcharging from June.
Swastik Hospital was one of the first to come under its radar in June for charging its patients in violation of government’s fixed rates. Following complaints, MNS leader Sandeep Pachange met TMC Deputy Commissioner Vishwanath Kelkar and demanded strict action against the hospital.
In July, TMC began a full-fledged drive against other private hospitals. On July 25, Horizon Prime hospital on Ghodbunder Road was the first to be sealed for a month and prohibited from treating Covid-19 patients after an audit showed the hospital was inflating its bills and charging extra for personal protective equipment and treatment. Of its 57 bills scrutinised, 56 bills were found inflated.
However, TMC decided to allow the other 17 hospitals under audit to carry on with its operations. “Our aim is to not stop these hospitals from functioning, as there is a huge burden on the health resources. We have instructed the hospitals to refund the money to patients, which is more important at this point,” said Thane Commissioner Dr Vipin Sharma. He added that the eight teams of auditors will continue its scrutiny of hospitals bills in Thane.
“We have demanded strict action against the 17 these hospitals so that people can afford Covid-19 treatment without any hassle,” Pachange said.
When contacted, Metropol hospital’s administrative official Anil Tribhuvan said, “We did not overcharge Covid-19 patients. We only charged as per our rates.”
In Titan hospital, administrator Dr Shahrjan Singh said, “We are not overcharging patients, we have given our accounts to TMC auditor for clarification.”