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Friday, May 14, 2021

PCMC probes allegations that doctors at Auto Cluster facility charged Rs 1 lakh for ventilator bed

The amount was apparently taken by some doctors of the Auto Cluster facility, which is supposed to provide free treatment to the patients.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
Updated: May 1, 2021 7:52:03 am
"I contacted the Auto Cluster facility. I was told that there was no ventilator bed available and that there were six patients already in the queue," Gaikwad said. (Express photo by Manoj More)

THE PCMC has started an investigation into allegations that some doctors at the civic-run Auto Cluster hospital in Chinchwad charged the family of a Covid-19 patient Rs 1 lakh for a ventilator bed in the intensive care unit. The facility is supposed to provide Covid-19 treatment for free. The hospital administration has, however, denied the allegations and has, instead, put the blame on a private hospital in Walhekarwadi and its doctors.

“We have launched a probe into the allegations… If we find substance in them, we will also file a police complaint,” said additional municipal commissioner Ulhas Jagtap on Friday.

Jagtap said two PCMC corporators, Kundan Gaikwad and Vikas Dolas, had made the allegations. “The corporators have brought to our notice that some doctors demanded Rs 1 lakh for a ventilator bed from the family of a patient. They have also alleged that the doctors at the Auto Cluster facility took Rs 80,000, while Rs 20,000 went to a doctor from a private hospital, where the patient was first admitted,” he said.

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Jagtap also said after the allegations surfaced on Thursday, the civic administration had summoned Dr Amol Holkunde, CEO of Auto Cluster facility, to find out what had happened. “Dr Holkunde has said he has no knowledge of the incident. He has asked for a probe as well,” he said.

When contacted, corporator Kundan Gaikwad said, “The patient in this case was a principal of a PCMC school. She was brought to a private hospital in Walherkarwadi on April 23 from another private hospital in the same area, as her oxygen levels were falling. Doctors at the private hospital told her family that there were beds were not available anywhere.”

Gaikwad said the family then contacted him. “I contacted the Auto Cluster facility. I was told that no ventilator bed was available, and that six patients were already in the queue,” he said.

Gaikwad also said the private hospital then contacted the Auto Cluster facility. “After contacting the Auto Cluster facility, the private hospital doctors told the patient’s family that one bed was available, but they would have to pay Rs 1 lakh. Since it was an emergency situation, the family paid the money,” he said.

The corporator said the patient died on April 28. “Initially, I too did not have any knowledge of it. I was also surprised to find out that the patient had got admission to the Auto Cluster facility, even after doctors informed that ventilator bed was not available. When I enquired, the family told me that they paid Rs 1 lakh for the ventilator bed,” he said.

Gaikwad further said he had written to PCMC commissioner Rajesh Patil and demanded a thorough probe in the matter. “I have demanded CCTV camera from April 23 to be verified to find out who took the money and who all were present during the admission of the patient, and the subsequent exchange of money,” he said.

When contacted, Dr Amol Holkunde, CEO of Multi-Specialty hospital that runs the Auto Cluster Covid facility, denied the allegations. “Our doctors are not at all involved in this malpractice. It is the private hospital doctors who have taken the money. It is their modus operandi to call the PCMC helpline, promise a ventilator bed at civic hospitals to patient’s families and then take money from families of serious patients for a bed. If the patient does not get the bed on arrival at the hospital, the money is refunded. We learnt this after studying the whole modus operandi. We have informed the PCMC commissioner about this…” he said.

Dr Holkunde also said their doctors submitted a police complaint against the private hospital doctors. “Since they (private hospital doctors) took the names of our doctors when they were caught, we have lodged a complaint against them,” he said.

Dr Holkunde further said when the patient was brought to the Auto Cluster facility, she did not require ventilator bed facility. “The patient first required oxygen bed and, accordingly, we provided one. If our doctors were involved, they would have directly provided a ventilator bed as promised,” he said.

Gaikwad said the poor were struggling to get beds, but even then money was being demanded to admit patients. “The Auto Cluster facility is free for patients, yet it seems some doctors are involved in malpractices. The PCMC should put up a proper system in place,” he said.

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