THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With Covid-19 cases increasing manifold, the state government has brought in the private healthcare sector to manage caseload. However, the government’s stance to allow private hospitals to charge their own rates for Covid treatment has triggered concerns of a possible fleecing of patients. It’s being pointed out that the move will do more harm than good.
Amid the concerns, there has been a demand to either set up a monitoring mechanism to keep a tab on treatment expenses at private hospitals or to come out with a prescribed fee structure for treating Covid patients in the private sector. The government, in a public notice, recently stated that “if the non-Karunya Arogya Suraksha Paddhati (KASP) patients desire to go to private hospitals, they may do so by contacting the respective hospitals and bear the expenses as per the rates of the hospitals.”
Earlier, the government had announced the rates that could be charged by private hospitals for admitting and treating positive cases. But it has been made applicable only to beneficiaries of KASP and those referred by the government to other private healthcare institutions.
Health dept officials fear a deluge of complaints
“Allowing private hospitals to charge their own rates will create problems. Already, there were some complaints of private hospitals charging extra rates under the heads like PPE kit, preparation charge, nursing charge and other procedures. This has to be considered a prelude to the piling up of complaints in the coming days,” said a health department official.Former state health minister V S Sivakumar said a monitoring system should be put in place to keep a tab on treatment costs in the private sector.
However, he differed with the idea of fixing a unified rate for treating Covid19 patients. “Private sector cannot be excluded from Covid-19 treatment. Their involvement is essential in the fight against the virus. But to allow them to charge their own rates is impractical. Thus a monitoring mechanism is needed. But we cannot call for a unified rate as private hospitals vary themselves in terms of facilities and patient care,” said Sivakumar.
Terming the concerns as mere speculation, IMA state secretary Dr P Gopikumar said there is no ground in saying that, if allowed, private hospitals will fleece patients.He said the state government has placed its trust in the private sector and it will never fail. “The private sector had extended its support when discussions were there to provide treatment to KASP beneficiaries as per a rate fixed by the government.
“The private hospitals know their social responsibility and will act accordingly,” said Gopikumar.