Coronavirus outbreak: BMC starts enquiry against private lab that overcharged patient

Updated: Apr 18, 2020, 07:16 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

In new statement, hospital says the additional amount taken from the patient was consultation charge as a doctor's prescription is mandatory for conducting a Coronavirus test

The patient's family says that they already had a prescription and there was no need for the hospital to charge them for consultation
The patient's family says that they already had a prescription and there was no need for the hospital to charge them for consultation

Even as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has started an enquiry against L H Hiranandani Hospital for overcharging a patient for a COVID-19 test and her family has demanded a refund, the hospital administration has come up with a new statement to justify the charges. While earlier they had said that the patient paid only Rs 5,200, now they claim that the additional Rs 1,200 (total: Rs 6,400) was consultation charge as a doctor's prescription is mandatory for conducting the test.

Even though the BMC has capped the charge for a COVID-19 test at Rs 4,500 for all private labs, Malad resident Asha Kulkarni had to pay Rs 6,400 for it at the hospital's lab.

Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner of BMC and in-charge of health, told mid-day that the enquiry was on. "We will take appropriate action accordingly," he added. However, the hospital spokesperson said that they hadn't received any notice from the BMC.Speaking to mid-day, Asha's son, Avdhut Kulkarni said, "The result of my mother's COVID-19 test is negative but we have gone through mental stress because of the billing process." He said that there should be uniformity in the charges and the hospital should refund the extra amounts to all patients.

In another official statement released on Friday, the hospital administration said, "People who have to undergo the test needs to consult an infection specialist for which the charge is Rs 1,000. Now generally out of 10 cases only two to three patients are recommended to undergo the COVID-19 test. So, instead of paying Rs 5,200, the rest just pay Rs 1,200 for consultation and registration. In fact they end up saving money. For a COVID-19 test, a patient needs to get a prescription for which the doctor would charge anything between Rs 500-Rs 1,500."

Avdhut further said, "We already had a prescription so there was no point of charging us for consultation." Activist Kamlakar Shenoi, who had posted the patient's bill on social media, said, "Indian Council of Medical Research has strongly appealed to private labs to offer COVID-19 tests free of cost. They have even capped the charge at Rs 4,500. In such a situation the hospital is expected to act more responsibly."

When contacted, BMC commissioner, Praveen Pardeshi, said, "The ICMR guidelines say that the cost of a test should not be more than Rs 4,500. We will conduct an enquiry in the matter. Meanwhile, we are going to increase the number of tests at government facilities which are free of cost."

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