COVID-19 in Mumbai: BMC lets private hospitals buy PPEs at base rate

Updated: Jun 25, 2020, 07:20 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Even as civic auditors are slashing inflated COVID bills of private hospitals, BMC boss tells them to buy equipment from the city at lower rates and pass on the benefits to patients

A doctor in a PPE suit examines a patient at a private hospital
A doctor in a PPE suit examines a patient at a private hospital

Following the bed availability crisis in private hospitals, the civic body is now trying to resolve the growing number of complaints around inflated hospital bills. The BMC has directed private hospitals to submit all COVID bills to auditors after a patient is discharged and civic chief Iqbal Singh Chahal has suggested that private hospitals purchase PPE kits from the civic body at lower rates.

The civic body is currently buying kits at R400 each due to the huge quantity. Chahal said that private hospitals, however, purchase them at R900 each and then make a profit by selling them at R1,500. "While we have fixed the rates of beds, private hospitals are charging a higher amount for PPE kits, masks and gloves. So we are offering them to buy the kits from us at R400 and the benefits can then be passed on to the patient," he said.

Chahal said that private hospitals then won't be allowed to charge patients extra for kits and will have to display the rates on the board. "The hospital won't be at a loss and patients will save R1,000 on every PPE kit used," he said. The issues were discussed during a meeting between Chahal and the heads of more than 35 leading private hospitals in the city on Wednesday.

Surprise visits
While auditors were earlier dealing with individual billing-related complaints, Chahal said that after patients are discharged, all private hospitals will now have to share copies of their bills with auditors. This will be implemented immediately. Last month, the state government had fixed the charges for treatment of COVID patients in private hospitals who require general isolation at R4,000 a day, ICU beds at R7,500 a day and a ventilator at R9,000 a day. Despite the regulations, various complaints have been surfacing regarding hospitals levying surcharge, bio-medical waste management charges and inflated PPE kit costs.

Hospitals overcharge
Steven Gopuran is among those who had to cough up several lakhs to get his father treated at a private hospital. He had first taken his father, Rocky Joseph Gopuran, to a well-known hospital in Andheri in April after he suffered a stroke and had to be admitted for 51 days. The 60-year-old was rushed back to the hospital in a few days and tested positive for COVID-19. He was put on ventilator support and died on June 22.

Gopuran said that the hospital charged them R15 lakh for the first visit, and for the second one, nearly R6 lakh for 12 days. "They charged us more when he was admitted for COVID. The hospital charged us more than R3,700 for more than 10 PPE kits. Instead of helping people during a pandemic, private hospitals are looking for ways to charge people more," he said. He added that the hospital had also demanded a deposit of R1 lakh before admitting his father to get the test for COVID and refused to release his father's body until the bill was cleared. With the help of a local corporator, the issue was later resolved.

'Punitive action must'
Congress corporator and leader of opposition, Ravi Raja pointed out that private hospitals won't stop overcharging patients unless they face punitive action. "Private hospitals are aware that they won't be shut down during a pandemic and they are taking advantage of the situation. If private hospitals are repeatedly overcharging patients, then criminal action needs to be taken against them," he said. They should no longer be granted concessions for electricity bills and property tax, he said.

Rs 900
Price at which private hospitals buy one PPE kit

Rs 1,500
Price they charge patients

Rs 1 lakh
Deposit demanded from Goparan before admitting his father

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