Consumer forum directs hospital to pay compensation for charging ICU patient for oxygen against NABH guidelines
West Bengal: Holding that the hospital charged for equipment for oxygen against the medical guidelines, the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission of Bengal has directed the private hospital to pay over Rs 22,000 as compensation to the patient.
The case concerns a patient, whose son, the petitioner claimed that the hospital had charged for inflated medical bills by adopting unfair trade practice. She alleged that the hospital has overcharged them by including the cost of oxygen in the bill which is illegal as according to NABH guidelines, the ICU facility includes the supply of oxygen itself.
In the petition, the complainant submitted that her mother was hospitalized in the Hospital for the period from 25.03.2016 to 06.10.2016 for six times. During this period of her treatment, the Hospital charged for oxygen as well as equipment costs amounting to Rs.10,860/- which is illegal. As per NABH Guidelines, the infrastructure of ICU includes the supply of oxygen and as such question of billing separately for oxygen does not arise.
The counsel for the complainant alleged that the patient was subjected to pay an inflated medical bill by adopting unfair trade practices. A complaint was filed under Section 12 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against the Hospital alleging deficiency in service on the part of the OP. The petitioner sought direction for the hospital to pay compensation of Rs.1,20,000/- towards refund of excess amount of Rs.10,860/- and damages for unfair trade practice.
In response, the counsel for the hospital contended the submission stating that the Pricing' of ICU charges cannot be adjudicated under the provision of the Consumer Protection Act. The hospital said that treats its patient following the guidelines issued under clinical establishment. The oxygen equipment charges etc. shown separately in the bill had obviously total of all items together which amounts to ICCU charges and so the same is not illegal. Thus, the hospital prayed for dismissal of the case. During the course of the trial, the Complainant, by filing a petition, submitted to treat the Complaint as evidence or affidavit-in-chief which was considered and allowed.
After considering the submission of both the parties, the commission, on the question of whether the Complainant is a consumer and the Complaint is maintainable in its present form, stated, "It is evident that the dispute is relating to medical service provided by the OP (hospital) and thereby charging the medical fee illegally during the period of her mother's treatment. So, the dispute is not of 'pricing' only as contended by the OP but of illegally charging for the medical service provided to the mother of the Complainant. Thus Complainant being a 'Consumer' under the Provision of Consumer Protection Act, this point is answered in affirmative."
As far as the question of unfair trade practice on part of the hospital is concerned, the commission took note of the fact that the purpose of NABH was to design and monitor the health care standards for hospitals and health care and its guidelines should be maintained.
"The Complainant has filed the said guidelines but OP has not filed any document to substantiate that it was well within medical guidelines to charge for equipment for oxygen, stated the commission.
Finally, the Commission observed that there were no documents submitted by the OP suggesting that it charged for equipment for oxygen as per medical guidelines and ordered that
In the absence of any document by the OP that it charged for equipment for oxygen as per medical guidelines, Complainant is entitled to return of the sum of Rs.10,860/- along with compensation for mental agony and harassment . An amount of Rs.12,000/- as compensation and litigation cost of Rs.5,000/- will be justified. But as the Complainant has been provided the legal aid, OP shall have to deposit Rs.5,000/- with the legal aid bank account of this Commission.
To view the order, click on the following link: