Initiate action against hospitals for overcharging COVID patients: HC tells Karnataka Govt
Bengaluru: Karnataka High Court has directed the government to publish advertisements in newspapers and put information on the website of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to facilitate people to lodge complaints against private hospitals which have charged excess fees for the COVID treatment.
The divisional bench headed by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, which took up the inquiry of slew of petitions submitted regarding the Covid management on Monday has asked the government to provide information about the action taken on private hospitals which have charged excess fee violating the government guidelines on treatment of Covid-19 patients.
The court in its order noted,
"Counsel for intervenor, Shridhar Prabhu, has pointed out that as per the annexure R3, to affidavit of compliance dated 25/10/2021, filed by the state government, certain hospitals have charged money from the patients although they were not to charge any amount from them for the treatment of covid illness and even in some cases they have been asked to refund the amount. The corporation/state government will have to inform as to what action has been taken against these hospitals who are found guilty of charging exorbitant amounts from patients and whether the said amount has been refunded to the patients or not."
The bench also directed the government and BBMP to furnish details of excess fee being returned to the Covid patients during the time of next hearing.
Addressing the importance of giving publicity to the redressal mechanism, the court further noted,
"BBMP shall advertise on their website informing the public at large to make a complaint, if any, against private hospitals, who have charged excess amounts from them for treatment of covid-19. The advertisement shall also come in daily newspapers having wide circulation"
Live Law reports that the counsel for the government submitted to the court that they have given the list of hospitals which have charged an excess fee for treating Covid patients. The private hospitals have collected Rs 1,98,83,498 excess amount from the patients referred by the government hospitals and so far have returned Rs 32,22,352 to patients.
They had collected Rs 1,55,91,845 excess fee for treatment of Covid patients who were admitted to private hospitals directly and they have made repayment of Rs 10, 42,339 to patients. 'Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust' helpline set up to receive complaints on this matter has registered 1,325 cases so far, he informed the court.
The government has fixed Rs 10,000 for general ward, Rs 15,000 for ICU without ventilator, Rs 12,000 for HDU and Rs 25,000 for ICU with ventilator facility. The government has stated that, if private hospitals charge more than the prescribed amount and in case of refusal for treatment of Covid patients, they will be booked under the Karnataka Private Medical Establishment (KPME) Act and National Disaster Management Act (NDMA), reports IANS
The detailed information given by the government in its annexure submitted to the court read,
"If a patient gets a positive report after Covid-19 test, B.U Number will be generated by BBMP. Based on the B.U number, a bed will be allotted to the patient under government quota in a private hospital. Treatment in private hospital for the bed allotted under the government quota is completely free for the patient including Remedisivir Injection, supplied by the government. Patients need not pay any amount to the hospital. All BPL & APL categories, migrant workers and interstate returnees are eligible to avail this facility."
It further clarified, "If a patient wishes to avail treatment as a private patient, in a private hospital on cash payment basis, he will have to bear the cost of treatment himself within the limits fixed by the government as given below. Rates Per Day, General ward Rs. 10,000, Isolation ICU without Ventilator Rs. 15,000, HDU Rs. 12,000, Isolation ICU with Ventilator Rs. 25,000. Private hospitals should not charge any additional amount from the patients other than the rates fixed by the Government. If any hospital charges higher rates, they can be prosecuted under the KPME Act 2017 and National Disaster Management Act 2005. If a private refuses to treat covid-19 patients or charge more than the rates fixed by the government, patients can call 1800 425 8330 and complain and send email to firstname.lastname@example.org."