The state’s health regulatory commission on Monday issued a series of advisories to private hospitals, one of which requires the healthcare units to provide drinking water to all patients for free unless they opt for packaged water.
Retired judge Ashim Banerjee, chairperson of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission, said it had been observed that many hospitals charged patients in critical care units or in a coma for mineral water which they possibly did not use.
“We have come across cases where such patients have been billed for 100 or 50 litres of mineral water, clearly indicating misuse. Hence, we have directed the hospitals to provide free potable or filtered water to all patients. If any patient requires packaged drinking water, the hospital will supply the same at appropriate cost,” Banerjee said.
The commission also cautioned hospitals against charging separately for resident medical officers (RMOs) in critical care units. “We have disallowed separate RMO charges in many hospitals, still such practices are going on. Hence this advisory. RMO’s service is part of the critical care services and cannot be charged separately,” he said.
Another advisory said procedures like “intubation, catheterisation, Ryles tube fixation, cannula fixation, central line, arterial line etc” should not be charged separately in the critical care units.
The advisory read: “As and when such charges are noticed in the course of hearing of the complaints, the commission… has disallowed such charges, yet such practice is… still continuing.”
The advisory, however, stated that ventilation, ECMO support and tracheostomy charges would not be covered by the bed charge. The fourth advisory said there would no longer be a cap on bed charges, as had been the case over the past two years.
The commission said hospitals could increase their bed charges once a year, but by not more than 10 per cent. Rupak Barua, group CEO of AMRI Hospitals, welcomed the decision on bed charges.
“At AMRI Hospitals, we have not hiked bed rates and we don’t have any such plan in near future,” he said.
“As for the other three advisories, we follow them mostly. However, the advisory regarding inclusion of procedures like central and arterial line and any form of cannulation within the bed rate needs to be reviewed. Many patients even in critical care units don’t need these procedures. Including these within the bed rate might mean they will have to pay more,” he said.