Bihar govt rescues Covid patient allegedly held captive by hospital for failure to clear bills
Out of a bill of ₹6.34 lakh that the hospital raised for the patient’s treatment for 20 days in ICU, his attendants paid ₹2.44 lakh before the government intervened to settle the issue.
The Bihar government Monday initiated de-empanelment procedure against a private hospital in Patna after it found serious lapses in its functioning, following a complaint that a Covid-19 patient was held captive for failure to clear hospital bills.
The Patna district administration had to intervene to secure the patient’s release later in the evening.
The JDM Hospital at Kankerbagh had demanded ₹6.34 lakh for 20 days of treatment of a 48-year-old man from Patna. His relatives had paid ₹2.44 lakh, after which they wanted the patient to be discharged, saying the hospital’s charges were inflated and arbitrary.
The Bihar government is yet to put a cap on charges though last month it forced private hospitals to initiate treatment of Covid-19 patients.
“The rates for treatment of Covid-19 patients at private hospitals may be ready by Wednesday,” said Pratyaya Amrit, Bihar’s principal secretary, health.
It was Amrit who came to the rescue of the patient after his attendants reached out to him on Monday. He sent a medical team to the hospital to scrutinise the bill and arbitrate the case. The team slashed down the bill to ₹1.90 lakh.
“The hospital had raised exorbitant and frivolous charges in the bill. It had even included the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. The cost of gloves alone came to ₹8,000 per day. I was told another ₹85,000 was to cover for the government’s ex-gratia payment to the next of kin of those who die of Covid-19,” said Amber Kaifi, the patient’s nephew.
Bihar has announced an ex-gratia of ₹4 lakh to the next of kin of those who die of Covid-19.
“The cost of medicines, prescribed in huge quantities was repetitive in the bill. The hospital would not give proper break-up of charges,” he added.
The hospital administration, however, denied it.
“The patient’s relative had claimed in the media that we are charging them ₹50,000 per day. As per that calculation, the hospital bill should have run up to ₹10 lakh. We have raised ₹6.34 lakh only, which the attendant doesn’t want to pay now,” said Amit Kumar, co-director of the JDM Hospital.
“Twenty days of ICU treatment, with 10 days on ventilator support, you tell me what the bill should be?” he asked this reporter.
“We are paying our hospital staff double and triple their salary and yet they are reluctant to work in Covid-19 wards. In the instant case, we are not willing to refund any money to the patient’s attendant. In fact, we just want the attendant to pay an additional ₹70,000 incurred on medicines and tests of the patient,” he said.
“If we are forced to refund money to the attendant and not even recover our basic cost, I may have to close down our hospital or even think of committing suicide,” added Kumar.
“We got the matter enquired and found that the hospital is not maintaining records properly and is giving provisional bills to patients. An FIR is being filed against the hospital and it is being de-empanelled for treatment of Covid-19,” said Amrit.
Patna civil surgeon Dr Raj Kishore Chaudhary said, “This is the second such case in about a week at the hospital. Earlier, it refused to release a body of a Covid-19 patient, forcing us to intervene and sort out the issue.”
Later, Kaifi confirmed that he did not have to pay anything beyond ₹2.44 lakh, which he had already paid to the hospital, as the patient was discharged around 8.30pm