On Saturday, nearly two months after the Tamil Nadu government capped treatment cost for COVID-19 at private hospitals, Be Well Hospitals, Kilpauk, lost its recognition as a COVID-19 facility for charging 12,20,000 for treating a patient for 19 days. The Health Department, which conducted an inspection, confirmed that the hospital charged in excess and suspended its classification as a COVID-19 facility. The individuals treatment did not include any special medications as per the protocols laid down by the government.
The Department noted that it had made it clear to private hospitals to display the treatment costs fixed by the government, while warning that action would be taken if there were complaints of overcharging.
The State government capped the COVID-19 treatment cost on June 6. But a number of private hospitals across the State continue to charge in excess.
Phone calls were made to a number of private hospitals across the State in July, enquiring about admission of COVID-19 patients and the treatment cost from the first week of July. The rates quoted by the representatives of these hospitals revealed that they charged more than the tariff fixed by the government.
The Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services (DMS) has permitted nearly 170 private hospitals in the State to treat COVID-19 patients.
The government classified the hospitals as Grade A1/A2 and Grade A3/A4, depending on their infrastructure and facilities. It fixed a maximum of 7,500 a day for the general ward in Grade A1/A2 hospitals, and up to 5,000 a day for Grade A3 and A4 hospitals, while a maximum of 15,000 should be charged for ICU in all categories of hospitals.
Official sources said many hospitals, especially medium and large corporate hospitals, collected exorbitant charges from patients. In fact, a few major hospitals demanded caution deposits running into lakhs from patients. Many of them charged more than 50% of the treatment cost fixed by the government, in excess, an official source in the Health Department said.
Recently, the bill of a private medical college hospital charging a patient 3.5 lakh for 15 days was widely shared on social media. Quite a few hospitals in Chennai remained tight-lipped about the tariff, insisting that the patient had to be examined to ascertain his/her condition, while a few others offered to send their own isolation ambulance to pick up patients or offered home care packages and made repeated calls seeking admission of patients.
At Gleneagles Global Health City, Perumbakkam, a representative said an isolation ward costs 10,500 a day, while nursing charges and doctors consultation fees were additional. This is purely medical management, and we should not give out details on the room charges without knowing the patients condition, he said.
A representative of MIOT International, when asked about admission for a 75-year-old patient who tested positive for COVID-19, said, If the patient is stable, the per day charge is 25,000. If oxygen support is required, it is 40,000 a day.
A representative of Muthu Hospital at Pulianthope said a normal ward costs 10,000 a day, while treatment at an ICU costs 20,000 a day. The hospital also offered to dispatch an isolation ambulance with a technician.
At Billroth Hospital, the representative said the charges depended on the condition of the patient but an advance amount of 30,000 was a must.
A Chennai resident, who recovered from COVID-19, said he spent 1.7 lakh for treatment in a common hall comprising 50 patients for 18 days at a private medical college hospital on the citys outskirts.
My parents, who were at a COVID-19 care centre in another private medical college, paid 7,000 each for a week, he said.
(Part 2-How does the rest of the State fare?)