Panel censures 2 hospitals for overbilling, orders refund
The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission on Friday found to be true complaints of inflated billing against two private hospitals and ordered them to return various sums to the patients.
The commission also warned the hospitals — Desun Hospital and BP Poddar Hospital — against repeating the practice.
Desun Hospital was ordered to return Rs 65,478. BP Poddar Hospital offered to return Rs 50,000 and the commission asked it to do so.
The commission’s chairperson, retired judge Ashim Kumar Banerjee, said both hospitals had charged exorbitant amounts for some pathological tests. “The rates were more than what the most reputable diagnostic laboratory in the city, whose results most doctors accept without any doubt, charge,” Banerjee said.
BP Poddar Hospital had also violated the cap imposed by the state government on the PPE charge and doctors’ consultation fee.
“Fifty-seven-year-old Ashok Kumar Choraria lodged a complaint that he had been billed Rs 1,15,478 for a mere 16-hour stay at Desun Hospital on August 22. The hospital has claimed that he stayed for 19 hours. The hospital charged the patient Rs 26,000 for bed for this duration,” said Banerjee. The patient was suffering from Covid-19.
“When we examined the bill, we found some discrepancies. The IL6 test, that is done for Covid-19 patients, was done twice during this short stay. The charges of some routine tests seemed to be very high. For example, the hospital had charged Rs 1,900 for the liver function test. We compared this with the charge of the most reputable laboratory in the city. They charge Rs 1,250 for the test,” he said.
He said the commission told a representative of Desun Hospital during the hearing that their charges were “exorbitant”.
The patient’s family deposited Rs 50,000 during admission and paid the remaining Rs 65,478 of the total bill during discharge. They alleged during the hearing that the hospital refused to discharge him if the balance amount was not paid.
“We have asked Desun Hospital to return Rs 65,478 to the patient. We have also warned the hospital that we do not want a repeat of this practice,” the chairperson said.
When asked about the commission’s order, Tapas Mukherjee, the deputy managing director of Desun, said: “We have not yet received a written copy of the order. So we will not comment.”
Choraria got himself admitted in another hospital after being discharged from Desun.
A similar complaint of inflated billing was filed against BP Poddar Hospital. “A man suffering from Covid remained in the hospital for eight days and was billed Rs 2,77,169. The insurance company paid only Rs 1,26,673. The patient’s family had to pay the rest,” the chairperson said.
While scrutinising the bill, the commission found that the hospital had violated the cap set by the government for doctors’ consultation fee and personal protective equipment (PPE) charges.
“The hospital had charged more for doctors’ consultation. It showed two heads and charged Rs 1,000 each for doctors’ consultation and medical officer’s fee. This cannot be done,” said Banerjee.
“The hospital also charged high rates for pathological tests. They charged the patient Rs 6,525 for IL6 test and Rs 2,683 for the liver function test,” said Banerjee. “They also charged for masks separately from the PPE.”
The government has capped doctors’ consultation fee and the PPE rate at Rs 1,000 each a day. The commission later issued an advisory clarifying that PPE rate would include the charged for gloves and masks.
“I am not aware of this particular case…. We allow every patient or family to speak to the senior management if they have any complaint about billing or treatment. Every patient has the right to approach the commission if they feel, but I would like to say that they can also approach us before that if they want,” said Mohit D. Bhagat, the assistant general manager of BP Poddar Hospital and Medical Research Limited.
The commission on Friday also asked two hospitals in Durgapur to file affidavits in the case of the death of a 17-year-old boy who had tested positive for Covid-19. One of the hospitals did not make any arrangements for the boy’s admission in any other hospital when they could not admit him. A doctor at the hospital who examined the boy had advised admission.
“We have asked the hospital to show cause why they did not help the patient get admitted to another hospital,” said Banerjee. The boy underwent treatment for four days in the other hospital. The second hospital has been asked to provide all medical records.