Karnataka’s medical education minister K.Sudhakar on Tuesday said that a private hospital, which gave an estimate treatment cost of ₹9 lakhs to treat a patient who complained of breathlessness, would be dealt with severely.
“Some private hospitals are charging more than (the) capped price for patients visiting on their own. Strict action will be taken against such hospitals including criminal charges. Private hospitals need to respect law and should refrain from exploiting people by charging exorbitant prices,” Sudhakar said in a statement on Tuesday.
Though he did not name the hospital, an image of an estimate from Columbia Asia hospital did the rounds on social media, attracting severe criticism from the public for trying to fleece people in the midst of the covid-19 health crisis.
It was alleged that the patient, named Bashir, had been taken to the Columbia Asia hospital in Whitefield on Monday complaining of breathlessness when the estimate of ₹9.09 lakh for 10 days of treatment was handed over to the family. This included ₹2 lakh estimate for laboratory investigations and ₹1.4 laks for ventilator support.
Multiple calls to the hospital, its representatives and an email went unanswered.
The incident comes at a time when the B.S.Yediyurappa-led state government has been unable to get the full support of private hospitals to play an active role in the rapidly growing covid-19 health crisis in Bengaluru and Karnataka. The city is going under a week-long lockdown to fix teething problems relating to testing, tracing and availability of beds in private hospitals, who are still reluctant to join the government’s battle against the virus for reasons including capping of fares, officials say.
Sudhakar’s statement come on the same day when two private hospitals–Vikram Hospital and Apollo Hospital–were slapped with notices for allegedly refusing admission and not giving up the mandated 50% of their beds to fight covid-19. The out-patient departments of both hospitals have been ordered shut for 48 hours, Sudhakar said.
In another incident in the beginning of July, at least 18 private hospitals were served notices for refusing admission to a patient who later died.
The state government has tried to rope in private hospitals in its battle against covid-19 but several complaints have been reported against the latter for denial of admission and high charges among other allegations.
Though the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, the city’s civic body) has come up with a dashboard to provide real-time information on availability of hospital beds, it remains to be seen if the system will be effective in reducing the hardships to the rising number of patients and their grievance of being turned away from the doorsteps of most private medical health providers.