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Thursday, September 24, 2020

High bills: Families claim bodies not released by hospitals over non-payment

Charges like oxygen and bio-medical waste clearance are new components that private hospitals are adding in the bills. Private hospitals however state they are abiding by government norms in billing.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Updated: July 19, 2020 1:02:25 pm
Three more Covid patients die in Punjab, toll now 152 A group of health officials in Covid protective gear.

The issue of high hospital fees continues to plague the city with many instances coming to light of private hospitals refusing to part with the bodies of Covid-19 patients until next of kin settle contested bills running into lakhs.

Charges like oxygen and bio-medical waste clearance are new components that private hospitals are adding in the bills. Private hospitals however state they are abiding by government norms in billing.

On Thursday, the family of a 62-year-old rickshaw driver had to fight with Dr LH Hiranandani hospital authorities to claim his body. The hospital bill came up to Rs 8.50 lakh for 23 days of hospitalisation. Jayawant Kadam was in intensive care unit for 22 days. “We had Rs 2 lakh medical insurance. And we had paid Rs 15,000 deposit. We had no money to pay, and we requested the hospital to give us a few days to pay. We had started borrowing money from relatives. But the hospital refused to give the body,” said nephew Sagar Kadam.

Kadam died on Thursday morning, his body was handed over by 3.30 pm on intervention of local political leaders and police. Shiv Sena’s Nitin Nandgaonkar said he had to intervene and fight with the hospital to let the family conduct final rites. “The hospital had stationed security guards around the family to prevent them from leaving the hospital. They were clear they will not hand over the body unless the entire bill was cleared,” Nandgaonkar said. Hospital CEO Dr Sujit Chatterjee did not respond to calls and messages.

In another case, Wockhardt hospital refused to hand over body of Dinesh Jain (61) following his death on July 15 night until the bill was cleared. The hospital gave the family a bill of Rs 15.17 lakh for 22 days of hospitalisation. “The hospital charged Rs 45,000 per day for ventilator. Our health insurance of Rs 6.22 lakh was exhausted within few days. We kept begging the hospital to at least let us conduct final rites,” said younger brother Uttam Jain.

Jain was admitted on June 23, the family deposited Rs 65,000. According to the bill copy, accessed by The Indian Express, the hospital charged Rs 2.18 lakh for the bed, Rs 4.99 lakh for inpatient procedures, Rs 1.95 lakh for medicines, Rs 1.58 lakh for investigations and Rs 1.61 lakh for doctor’s consultation.

“The insurance was cleared, but our financial condition is not so strong as to pay remaining cost of Rs 8 lakhs,” said Hitesh Jain, the deceased’s son in law. On Thursday, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya intervened and Agripada police was called to the hospital. The hospital agreed to release the body, and his final rites were held in Bhoiwada crematorium.

“Patient was in ICU and on high end medications. When patient passed away we were waiting for insurance papers to clear. In cases where patients can’t afford, we give discount. We have a policy to not hold dead bodies,” a hospital official said.

The patient was admitted under 20 per cent category of beds for which bed charges are not capped by government and hospital is allowed to charge as per their normal rates. The hospital official said they waived off Rs 1.5 lakh, and have so far received only deposit money from family. The hospital stated the patient’s family refused to sign the bill and insurance amount cannot be credited until the bill is signed.

In another case, in Santacruz East Niron hospital, a 62-year-old woman with pneumonia was discharged on July 15 after 17 day hospitalisation. Her hospital bill came up to Rs 4.5 lakhs. The hospital charged her Rs 2,000 per day for personal protective equipment and Rs 3,000 per day for extra oxygen support.

Sena’s Nandgaonkar went to assist the family. “After a lot of fight, they agreed to waive off oxygen cost and reduced PPE charges. No Covid-19 test was conducted on the woman, how can PPE charges be levied for each day if there is no Covid positive report,” Nandgaonkar said.

“If oxygen requirement is too high hospitals can charge, but it should not be above 10 per cent mark up cost at which hospital procures. It should not be more than Rs 500 to Rs 1,000,” said Dr Sudhakar Shinde, who drafted a May 21 notification on price capping of hospital beds.

“If we receive an official complaint we will look into it,” he added.

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