District officials issue price caps; but choose not to make it public

Noida: Within a week of an intensive review meeting between officials of the Delhi government and Home Minister Amit Shah, the Capital had managed to cap the price of private COVID-19 testing and the rates of private treatment for the contagious disease.

And Shah calling for a unified COVID-19 strategy across all NCR districts, both Noida and Gurugram are yet to follow suit, leading to private hospitals continuing to charge exorbitant rates for treating Coronavirus patients in the absence of any strict regulatory measures by the district administrations here.

Reports of unreasonable billing by private hospitals in Noida and Greater Noida continue to do rounds on social media platforms.

While the Gautam Buddh Nagar district administration had allowed four private hospitals to start COVID-19 treatment, including Yatharth Hospital (200 beds), Jaypee Hospital (40 beds), Kailash Hospital (200 beds) and Fortis Hospital (40 beds); it had also issued detailed regulatory prices that these hospitals were to charge for treating Coronavirus patients.

However, while officials in the district administration are hesitant to make these price caps public, private hospitals have been charging patients unabated in the absence of any public outrage about not following price guidelines.

Significantly, before allowing these private hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients, District Magistrate Suhas LY, had asked the hospitals to self-regulate the charges and directed them to send their quotes for the same to the district administration. And while Millennium Post has learnt that the hospitals had sent capped prices to the district administration and that it had issued orders for hospitals to follow these prices as per ICMR guidelines, the price list has not been made public.

Repeated calls to the DM and Noida's Chief Medical Officer have been unanswered and they are yet to respond to messages sent to them by this reporter.

A senior administrative officer on the condition of anonymity told this newspaper that the charges for beds per day at these private hospitals have been fixed between Rs 8,000 to Rs 11,000. "As per the quotes received from private hospitals, the prices vary for multiple, twin and single-sharing beds. These prices include bed charges, RMO charges, nursing, consultation and food charges while for other services like surgery, PPE kits and radiology, the charges as actual cost will be taken by these hospitals. The charges for ICU vary between Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 and ventilators are available for Rs 5,000 per day," the officer said while reading from official documents.

However, none of the hospitals nor the health department here have publicised these rates, thereby enabling these hospitals to levy exorbitant charges, depending on the patient's background. It has come to light that after getting admitted to a private hospital in Noida or Greater Noida, the per day room charge taken by the hospitals varies between Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 while a ventilator could cost between Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000.

Anuj Kumar (name changed), a patient who was discharged from one of the private hospitals in Sector 62 of Noida on Saturday, told Millennium Post that he was billed over Rs 3.5 lakh for treatment which went on for nearly 10 days.

"I was told facilities at government hospitals are pathetic and beds are also unavailable so the treatment would continue in their hospital only. I am grateful to God that I have recovered but I feel that there must be transparency and the charges must be made public," said Kumar, adding that the number of beds available at each hospital must be displayed to the public in Noida & Greater Noida as well.

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