Despite several attempts by the government to check the excesses of the private hospitals during the pandemic, they continue to fleece the Covid patients. In a glaring example of fleecing the patients, a government notified hospital apparently charged Rs. 4.5 lakhs for 12 vials of Remdesivir injections in Vizag. Since the COVID hospitals and wards, being out of bounds for family members and relatives, the hospitals are hell-bent to carry on their clandestine activities. The government has fixed the price of each vial (100 mg) antiviral drug Remdesivir is mere Rs. 2,500, which is used to treat moderate and severe cases of Covid-19. Although the patient was aware that he was being cheated but that was not the time for him to argue with the hospital administration and risk the life of his son and that of his own.
In yet another incident, kin of a Covid patient have lodged a complaint with the district officials that a private hospital collected nearly Rs 5 lakh from them for treatment. As the deceased was well known to the ministers and the higher officials, they interfered and warned the hospital would be seized for violating the rules. The incident took place in Kakinada of East Godavari district. According to the relatives of the deceased, the Covid patient was admitted to a private hospital in the city on the night of April 24 for treatment.
Apart from the antiviral drugs, many covid-19 patients complained that private hospitals were insisting on CT Scans, X-rays and blood tests to ascertain COVID-19 infection. Although a separate committee has been formed to look into the complaints and carry out a detailed inquiry so that strict action could be taken. Even after this, not a single hospital has been issued show-cause notices by the district administration.
A doctor who is working for a government hospital said simply revoking hospital authorization to treat covid-19 patients is a mere eyewash. The entire process is very suspicious. On top of that no clarity of what the hospitals have charged, what violations the hospitals resorted to, by how much, which hospitals, none of this information is being shared. Stating further, the doctor said that why Director of health is not filing an FIR against the private hospitals under Section 415, 418 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code including 406 IPC (Criminal breach of trust). Many other social activists opine that considering the actions are being taken without disclosing specifics, it is not hard to see that the government is not really serious about holding anyone accountable.
Covid infected patients with breathing issues initially approaching the government hospitals. But due to the unavailability of beds in government hospitals, other option left for them to approach the private hospitals. Taking advantage of this, the private hospitals were fleecing the patients and the charges were high during the corona pandemic than in the normal days. This kind of peculiar situation was prevailing in entire north Andhra districts as the patients were being demanded cash payment instead of online transactions.
Even though the authorities caught red-handed staff of a private hospital who are trying to divert Remdesivir injections to the black market, there seems to be no dent in illegal activities carried by the private hospitals. All this and more is happening everywhere in private hospitals, with patients telling their near and dear ones of similar practices at some other hospitals. In spite of all these harassments, the relatives of patients are also against lodging complaints with the authorities as they fear that such a move could result in the patients not getting proper treatment.
Meanwhile, the district administration was on its toes to intensify vaccination programme in the government hospitals and the Covid cases were on the rise across the district. Even after the inspections by the nodal officers and close watch by the district administration on the private hospitals, these private hospitals are making hay while the sun shines. The CCTV cameras were set up in all these Covid hospitals and connected to the command control room set up at the District Collector’s office to check how the treatment was being done in private hospitals. However, the private hospital managements managed to install the cameras only in the ICU where the corona patients receiving oxygen in a bid to hide their malpractices.
Earlier nodal officers were appointed at every private code hospital. But in the reality, the nodal officers were not seen anywhere and even there were no help desks. The shortage of oxygen was rampant in the private hospitals since Sunday. Without advance payment of Rs 1 to Rs 2 lakh, the patients were denied admission in the private hospitals in addition to the cost of medicines, scanning, doctor fee, room rentals.
The need of the hour, the district administration should conduct more surprise inspections in the private hospitals and the ministers and MLAs should visit the private hospital and enquire about the well-being of the patients at least to know how they were being fleeced by the hospital management.