Thiruvananthapuram: Amid wide-spread appreciation of Kerala managing to flatten the pandemic curve and being sufficient in oxygen availability, reports have emerged of some private hospitals steeply overcharging their patients, thereby denting the state’s image of having a well-run health system.
Reports have emerged from different parts of the state over the past few days of patients being fleeced. These incidents have come to light even as the state has entered a total lockdown for nine days, from May 8-16.
In the latest and most shocking of such developments, a private hospital in Kattakada in south Kerala refused to release the body of a COVID-19 patient when the family could not pay up the roughly Rs450,000 (Dh22,570) hospital expenses for a 16-day treatment.
Local daily Mathrubhumi reported that the body was released to the family of the deceased after the district medical officer intervened in the matter and also got the bill amount reduced to Rs150,000.
The deceased had been admitted in the hospital along with his wife and son when all three were found to have contracted the virus. His wife and son were discharged two days later, but the man’s condition worsened and he passed away on Friday.
Hospital authorities clarified that they had indicated about the expenses while the patient was undergoing treatment and that family members had not responded to it. Hospital officials also said that the body was moved to the mortuary when family members said they would make arrangements to make the payment.
In another incident reported from Aluva, a hospital charged a total of Rs24,760 from a woman patient who spent only 23 hours at the hospital.
In the break-up of the bill, her family was shocked to see Rs1,380 charged for the rice soup she was served and Rs10,416 for PPE kits. The family then filed a police complaint after which the hospital refunded the entire amount and requested withdrawal of the complaint.
A number of hospitals have been reported to be charging exorbitantly for PPE kits.
Oxygen for Rs45,600
In an incident in Thiruvananthapuram district, a hospital charged as much as Rs45,600 for administering oxygen for one day.
After the incident was reported in the local media and a copy of the bill went viral on social media, the state human rights commission registered a case and directed the director of the health department and the district collector to submit reports about the incident.
On Sunday morning, a television journalist of the Mathrubhumi News channel succumbed to COVID-19 at a private hospital in Kochi. Vipin Chand, 41, was a senior chief reporter of the channel.
Chand had been hospitalised for a fortnight for after testing positive for coronavirus. He is survived by his wife and a son.