Private hospitals are “cheating” patients with a “lack of transparency” in the treatment packages they offer, said state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra on Tuesday.
The minister blamed private hospital groups for the exodus of patients to other cities and the poor state of healthcare in the state. “There is no transparency in the packages on offer. At the time of admission, a patient may be told he will have to pay as little as Rs 5,000, but at the end of the day, he is asked to cough up lakhs,” said Mishra, at the launch of a medical directory complied by Paraspar, an NGO.
The minister’s criticism follows the government’s call for more economical packages in private hospitals. Most schemes on offer in well-known city hospitals cater to cardiac patients, one of the city’s most prevalent diseases after cancer.
Medical bodies in the city placed the blame on smaller nursing homes. Sajal Dutta, president of the Association of Hospitals of Eastern India (AHEI) — which includes nine of the city’s top private hospitals — said packages offered by AHEI-affiliated establishments are “fair”.
“It is the small nursing homes and private clinics — over which we do not have any control — that do not reveal the true costs at the time of admission. It is such irregularities that have prompted the minister’s statements,” said Dutta.
The AHEI, he added, has already “streamlined the existing package system” and is working on further improvements.
“Private hospitals in the city are still doing good business,” admitted Mishra. “But their success often comes at the expense of people’s lives,” he argued.
R.D. Dubey, joint secretary (headquarters) of the Indian Medical Association, said “stern action” taken by the government may prevent hospitals from “cheating people with false packages”. But he, too, felt most of the packages on offer at leading private hospitals were “reliable”, and only a handful of players indulged in unfair practices.
Paraspar officials admitted to facing resistance from hospital officials about the disclosure of rates when they were compiling the directory. “Healthcare in the state will never improve if this trend continues,” the minister stated.