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Bengal health panel split on chief’s comments on Vellore versus Kolkata treatment costs

Members of the commission said the comparison was unfair as one bill was prepared by a hospital run by a charitable organisation and the other by a private enterprise that sustains on the revenue it generates

Our Bureau | Published 08.09.21, 07:06 AM
The health commission on Monday asked Fortis Hospital Anandapur to prepare a fresh bill for a patient who had been billed Rs 4.97 lakh for his 10-day stay there.

The health commission on Monday asked Fortis Hospital Anandapur to prepare a fresh bill for a patient who had been billed Rs 4.97 lakh for his 10-day stay there.

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At least two members of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission have objected to the chairperson’s comparison of two bills for a patient’s treatment - one prepared by Christian Medical College, Vellore, and the other by Fortis Hospital, Kolkata.

Abhijit Chowdhury and Gopal Krishna Dhali, members of the commission, said the comparison was unfair as one bill was prepared by a hospital run by a charitable organisation and the other by a private enterprise that sustains on the revenue it generates.

The health commission on Monday asked Fortis Hospital Anandapur in east Kolkata to prepare a fresh bill for a patient who had been billed Rs 4.97 lakh for his 10-day stay there.

The hospital did not offer any discount to the patient in violation of the commission’s advisory, retired judge Ashim Banerjee, the chairperson of the commission, had said on Monday.

The patient, who suffered injuries in a road accident, subsequently got himself treated at Christian Medical College, Vellore. “He stayed at the Vellore hospital for 19 days. It cost him Rs 1.19 lakh,” Banerjee had said.

“I have asked our office to send this bill to all major private hospitals in the state. They should see the bill and find out where their deficiency lies,” Banerjee had said.

Bengal, according to Banerjee, has many good doctors and offers quality services but the reason why many people go to south India for treatment lies in this bill.

Two members of the commission, however, criticised Banerjee’s comments.

“It is like comparing apples with oranges. The rates of a charitable organisation cannot be compared with that of a corporate hospital. The rates of treatment at corporate hospitals in Bengal should be compared with that of corporate hospitals in southern Indian states and a single incident should not be used to profile the healthcare system of our state,” Chowdhury said on Tuesday.

“Also, the chairperson’s comment on why people go to south India for treatment portrays Bengal’s healthcare system in poor light,” said Chowdhury.

“I feel the comment overstepped the mandate of the regulatory commission and such comments would make the people of the state seeking treatment here feel even more insecure.”

Chowdhury said it was the duty of the commission to ensure there was transparency in billing by private hospitals in the state and that people got the best possible service.

“We expect the chairperson to be neutral. But his comments on patients going to south India for treatment are biased,” said Dhali.

“The chairperson’s comments reflect his own opinions and not that of other members of the commission.”

Thousands of patients from eastern India, including Bengal, go to Christian Medical College for treatment every year. According to an official of the hospital, before Covid struck, 40 per cent of the 9,000-odd people who would visit the outpatients department per day were from Bengal.

The hospital, he said, earns more than 98 per cent of its revenues from patients’ fees and treatment charges, while the rest come from donations.

An official of a private hospital in Kolkata said healthcare facilities run by charitable trusts get tax benefits and other relief from governments, which corporate hospitals don’t get.

Last updated on 08.09.21, 12:33 PM
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