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Covid: Admission bar on three hospitals over allegations of billing irregularities

We have also asked them to submit a few bills on a random basis. We will examine the bills and decide on our next course of action: commission
The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission had last year told all private hospitals that they could not deny admission to a Covid patient if the family was not able to pay a security deposit.
The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission had last year told all private hospitals that they could not deny admission to a Covid patient if the family was not able to pay a security deposit.
File photo

Subhajoy Roy   |   Calcutta   |   Published 18.05.21, 02:05 AM

The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission has asked three hospitals in Behala, Park Circus and New Town to stop admitting patients after allegations of overbilling and seeking deposit before admission surfaced against them on social media.

The commission, which is the regulatory body of all private clinical establishments in the state, had issued an advisory during the first wave of Covid infections last year asking private hospitals not to make advance payment a condition for admission.

Retired judge Ashim Banerjee, the chairperson of the commission, said they took suo motu action against the three hospitals based on social media posts and reports published in a vernacular daily. 

“We have asked Apex in Behala, Samaritan in Park Circus and Ujjiban in New Town to stop admitting patients for now. There were allegations against these hospitals that they were overcharging patients and asking for a deposit before admission. We have also asked them to submit a few bills on a random basis. We will examine the bills and decide on our next course of action,” said Banerjee.

The commission had last year told all private hospitals that they could not deny admission to a Covid patient if the family was not able to pay a security deposit. It had said that a private hospital could not deny treatment to a patient under any circumstance.

But several hospitals are still seeking a security deposit as a condition for admission. If a patient’s family fails to pay the deposit, the hospital is refusing admission.

During the first wave of infections last year, several hospitals had been accused of not even allowing patients to be wheeled into the emergency ward because their families failed to pay any advance.

The patients were kept in ambulances for hours as the families ran from pillar to post to raise the money.

Rupak Barua, the group CEO of AMRI Hospitals, said they did seek a security deposit from patients but that was not a condition for admission.

“We do not deny anyone admission if a family fails to pay any security deposit. We admit the patient and start the treatment. We provide the family ample time to pay the deposit. No one is denied admission or treatment if they fail to provide the security deposit during admission,” said Barua.

He said it was a global practice for hospitals to ask for a security deposit before admission but no one should be denied treatment if the family failed to pay the amount. The deposit money, he said, is used to buy medicines and consumables for the patient’s treatment.

Banerjee also asked private diagnostic centres and laboratories to not charge more than the amount stipulated by the government for the RT-PCR test for Covid-19. The state health department has capped the test rate at Rs 950.

If a centre sends someone to collect test samples from home, it can additionally charge up to Rs 15 per kilometre.

The Telegraph had on May 6 reported that a number of diagnostic centres were charging twice or thrice the government-stipulated rate for home collection of samples for Covid tests, taking advantage of the inability of the elderly and the ailing to visit the centres.

An elderly couple who wanted to have their samples collected from home were asked by three diagnostic centres to shell out Rs 3,000, Rs 1,900 and Rs 1,400 for the tests.



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