Updated: June 16, 2021 10:14:29 am
A committee appointed by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to audit bills issued by private hospitals to Covid patients asked as many as 76 of them on Tuesday to return a total of Rs 6.44 crore, which was overcharged, to the patients.
Pimpri-Chinchwad has 137 hospitals of which 132 are private hospitals. The committee said it had examined 2,700 bills and found that the rates levied by private hospitals were not as stipulated by the state government regarding various treatment charges.
“We had received 131 complaints from families of Covid-19 patients. We had also pre-audited bills and brought the amount down as treatment charges did not conform to the state government’s stipulated rates. We have so far verified 2,700 bills and the process is still underway,” said Shrikant Shivane, who heads the committee.
Not all hospitals overcharged patients, Shivane added. “Of the 132 hospitals, 76 were found to have indulged in levying higher rates to patients,” he said.
When a bill is raised by the hospital and if the family of a patient finds it unreasonable, they should bring it to the committee’s notice, Shivane said. “Otherwise, we have instructed hospitals to alert our officials a day before the patient is discharged and the bill is raised. This helps in pre-auditing the bill and bringing down the amount if it is too high and not as per stipulations. But sometimes, the bills also come to us after they have been handed over to the family of patients,” he said.
Asked whether hospitals are adhering to the directives of the audit teams to reduce bill amounts and issue revised ones, Shivane said, “Though we don’t have a system to track this, we assume that hospitals are adhering to our directives. This is because after our directives to hospitals to reduce the bill amount, we have received only two complaints from the families of patients. We had told hospitals to adhere to our directives.”
In a case relating to a prominent hospital, a police complaint was also filed for overcharging and not adhering to PCMC directives, Shivane said. “Later, the case seemed to have been withdrawn after both parties settled the matter,” he added.
However, some families have had a bitter experience after they complained to the PCMC audit team. “A private hospital in Bhosari where my father underwent treatment raised a bill of more than Rs 3 lakh. When we complained to the PCMC audit team, it came and verified the bill amount. The audit team brought down the bill amount. However, the hospital said they had wrongly mentioned Rs 3 lakh…they said the actual amount was Rs 3.25 lakh. In short, there was no use calling the PCMC audit team,” said Sheetal Mahankale, a resident of Kasarwadi.
Mangesh Sail, a resident of Pimpri, said, “One private hospital in Indrayani Nagar raised a bill of Rs 1 lakh to treat my mother-in-law. The hospital said they are not implementing the state government’s Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana though the PCMC has made it compulsory for all hospitals. The hospital refused to bring down the bill. When a hospital is not implementing the scheme, why is the PCMC allowing them to treat patients who cannot afford costly treatment?”
Sail said that when he shifted his mother-in-law to another hospital in Moshi, it, too, billed them Rs 1.5 lakh for five days of treatment. “We have complained to officials of the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana. They are yet to act upon it,” he said.
Maval MP Shrirang Barne said he is getting such complaints from residents every day. “A prominent hospital in Chinchwad is making a business out of the plight of Covid patients. It is charging heavily for treatment. The PCMC is not acting tough. So, I had to complain to the Chief Minister’s Office,” he said.
Yogesh Babar, president of Pimpri-Chinchwad Shiv Sena, said, “PCMC has not even put up boards at prominent places in hospitals to inform patients’ families that they have to get bills audited by civic auditors before paying them. Families of patients are not even aware of this. Many borrow from their friends and relatives to pay the bills.”
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