India’s private hospitals and their exorbitant charges

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On the month of May 14th in the current year 2020, Mr. Tushar Jindal, 40, a kidney patient, tested positive for novel coronavirus and his family shocked with the results made some calls to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, India’s one of the elite private hospital situated in Delhi. The private hospital allegedly asked for an advance deposit of INR 5 lakhs for admission.

Since the amount was hefty for a middle class Indian family, following advice from Mr. Jindal’s nephrologist, they admitted him at Max Hospital in Saket, Delhi where an advance of INR 2.5 lakhs had to be paid.

“While I was admitted there, I barely received any treatment as my condition was stable. I was discharged within four days, but I was handed an exorbitant bill of ₹1.98 lakh,” claimed Mr. Jindal. He has sent a legal notice to the hospital contesting many of the items charged for and claiming that the bill issued to him was “faulty and fake and carries a lot of unnecessary and unreasonable charges”.

Mr. Jindal’s notice states that medicines and drugs which were not administered to him have been charged for in the bill and a charge of ₹71,000 questioned for “investigation” offered no other detail. Specifically, the notice states that being a kidney transplant patient, Mr. Jindal takes a particular brand of medicine prescribed by his nephrologist and he has been charged for a medicine he could never take, as it belongs to another company. He claims that he consumed his nephrologist-prescribed brand but has been charged for an alternative with four units and six times a day. Mr. Jindal was also charged ₹8,900 per day for PPE kits amounting to ₹35,600, hospital bills show. He was also charged ₹52,000 for “other charges”, which the notice terms “irrelevant and fake”.

Responding to queries, a Max Healthcare spokesperson said: “A patient’s attendants are counselled about the estimated cost of treatment at the time of admission itself, and they are required to sign an informed consent form for all treatment and procedures. Bill updates are also shared on a day-to-day basis on registered mobile numbers of attendants for any immediate concerns. The attendants of the patient were explained the overall consumption of PPEs during a 24-hour cycle, which is approximately nine PPEs per day per person in the COVID ICU, and the costs charged to the patient are in line with the costs incurred by the hospital in sourcing the PPEs.”

D.S. Rana, chairman of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said “the upfront payment is to tide over certain issues such as the family of a COVID-19 patient not being allowed to come to the hospital due to risk of infection. How will they make payments? We ask for INR 5 lakhs as advance from COVID-19 patients and refund the money if the bill is less than that,” he said.

Dr. Rana said, “The hospital follows a similar process for non-COVID-19 treatment too”.

“There is nothing to hide. Our expenses have gone up since the virus outbreak. Our hospital is just meeting expenses, not making any profit. The government can audit our accounts if they want,” he said.

Another case of a Journalist from nationalheraldindia shows another face of the overall situation and the huge differences in charging between government and private hospitals. The said journalist initially went seeking aid from an elite private hospital who gave a pricing quotation of INR 9 lakhs, the journalist was shocked with this pricing and with the mere fact that particular hospital called it as “a package for covid-19 treatment”, yes a package!

Shocked with the pricing, he decided to admit himself to the district civil hospital in the city where they charged him INR 50 (fifty) per day for three medicines and less than INR 1,000 per day for equipment that included oxygen cylinders and ventilators. With his multiple ailments, including chronic kidney disease, he should have had no hope of survival. But it is almost a miracle that the doctors at the district civil hospital pulled him out of danger and did not allow the comorbidity factors to undermine his chances of recovery. Out of hospital for a week now, he is fighting fit and back to the normal activities of a journalist.

Now what we can do to tackle these situations is to question the administrations, the system and governments ruling these systems, we need to ask our governments as to “why they are unable to curb the exorbitant charges by the prominent private hospitals of India”.