Private hospitals in Hyderabad refund Rs 1.61 crore to Covid-19 patients after complaints of overcharging

On June 15, 2020, the state government issued fixed rates and put a ceiling on rates chargeable by private hospitals and laboratories for treatment and testing. (File) Private hospitals in Hyderabad have refunded over Rs 1.61 crore to 87 people after the Telangana state health department had asked them to do so upon finding that they had overcharged patients for Covid-19 treatment, information availed through an RTI application field by activist Robin Zaccheus has revealed. Subscribe now to get unlimited access to The Indian Express exclusive and premium stories. Faced with complaints from patients and their relatives that hospitals were making them pay up for various additional charges for Covid-19 treatment, the office of the director of public health and family welfare had earlier issued guidelines on tariffs and put a ceiling on various charges. In reply to another RTI application by activist Kareem Ansari, the department said that till April 2022, it received 843 complaints against 268 private hospitals across Telangana for overcharging and defying orders on treatment charges set by the state government. Refunds were initiated for 87 complaints received between November 2020 and June 2021, it has revealed. Director of Public Health Dr G Srinivasa Rao said that the department set up a separate team to negotiate with private hospitals to refund excess charges. Omni Hospital at Kukatpally refunded the highest, Rs 27,41,948. TX Hospital at Uppal and Medicover Hospital at Hitec refunded Rs 10,85,000 and Rs 10,82,205 respectively. Century Hospitals at Banjara Hills (Rs 10 lakh), Ankura Hospital at LB Nagar (Rs 6.1 lakh), Diya Hospital at LB Nagar (Rs 6 lakh), Hyderabad Nursing Home (Rs 5 lakh), Medicover Hospital at Secretariat (Rs 5.7 lakh), Prathima Hospital Kukatpally (Rs 8.2 lakh) and Sunshine Hospital at Gachibowli (Rs 5 lakh) are some of the other hospitals who refunded the patients. On June 15, 2020, the state government issued fixed rates and put a ceiling on rates chargeable by private hospitals and laboratories for treatment and testing. It fixed Rs 4,000 per day as charges for admission to routine ward and isolation, Rs 7,500 per day for ICU isolation without ventilator and Rs 9,000 per day for ICU isolation with ventilator. However, patients complained that hospitals inflated the bills by putting exorbitant charges under various heads and fleeced them. The state government also set up a helpline and asked people to register complaints if they thought they were being overcharged. Last year, it barred at least 30 hospitals from admitting Covid-19 patients for repeated violations. Some of the complainants said that they were “fleeced” in the name of procedure charges, lab investigations, ICU charges, nursing allied charges, respiratory charges, oxygen charges, ICU admission charges etc. In one complaint, it was found that a hospital put oxygen charges and the same amount was also put as respiratory charges in the same bill. In the same bills, the hospitals also charged lakhs of rupees as critical care support which, according to health department officials, is ICU care and oxygen charges.