Kolkata: Commoners are clueless on how to make ends meet with no jobs, closure of businesses and several other issues, due to the deadly Coronavirus pandemic. Seizing the opportunity with both hands, few private hospitals in the state are literally looting patients in the garb of masks and PPE kits — absolute necessities at this hour of desperation.
In an incident in Kolkata earlier this month, KG Paul, a 63-year-old resident of the Dumdum area had to be at the receiving end when he had to get himself admitted to DESUN Hospital on the EM Bypass on May 7. An early morning discomfort and stomach pain complaints landed Paul in the private medical facility.
Perhaps, time was ripe for the medical facility to milk the patient party. To the Paul family’s utter surprise, the hospital charged Rs 14,300 for N95 masks and Viral Barrier set in a single day (the copy of the invoice is in possession with The Lateralz). Also, experts opine that Viral Barrier Set and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits work for the same purpose. For two days the total bill amount was Rs 1, 57,000.
“When a PPE kit comes at between Rs 600 to Rs 1500 per piece and an N95 mask at around Rs 100 or Rs 200 in the market, a charge total charge of Rs 2000 per day would have appreciated. But how can they charge as high as Rs 3200 for a PPE kit and Rs 500 for a mask per piece every single day?” his daughter, told The Lateralz. “We belong to a middle-class family and we can’t afford to go to biggies like Woodland or SSKM. Taking advantage, hospitals like these are looting us,” she said.
According to her, Paul was kept in an ICU isolation ward that housed approximately 12-14 fully occupied beds. The nurse count in the ward was five to six. “In an ICU Isolation ward where you have around fully occupied 12-14 beds and if the maximum number of nurses allotted is six, simple mathematics says one nurse is allotted per two patients. The maximum number of ward boys in such a facility was three. This clearly states that a nurse who is taking care of my patient is doing duty for others too wearing the same PPE kit.
“My point here is the expenses for safety gears here should have distributed among all patients which are completely understandable. But they are charging in the range of Rs 14k to Rs 15k from every patient. I even spoke to another medical facility at a stones-throw distance where the authorities told me, ‘a PPE kit and an N95 mask would be required each per day which collectively comes at around Rs 1500-Rs 1600’,” she added.
When countered, the hospital authorities indirectly admitted that the amount charged itself for an N95 mask and PPE kit per day was costly. “Every hospital has its own rates. If I were at your place I would have taken out my patient and admitted elsewhere,” a hospital official told The Lateralz when asked over the phone.
The family member of the Sexagenarian Paul also alleged that the authorities didn’t even send her father’s sample for the COVID-19 test despite taking it three times and charging Rs 4,500. The doctor who was in charge didn’t meet the family even once during the treatment stint.
“Being a family member of a patient, I have all the rights to call the authorities and take information about my patient. But when I did, nobody could answer my query. They behaved so rudely and even the concerned doctor never bothered to meet or update me,” she vented her ire. “Not seeing a way out, I then got my father immediately discharged on bond and brought him home. My total money got wasted there,” she rued.
To double check the working procedure and charges, The Lateralz got in touch with a nurse who has been working with a private medical facility in Kolkata for close to five years now. The nurse too questioned the hospital’s process. “Why the patient was kept in the isolation ward if he was not COVID-19 positive? If not, I don’t think it’s necessary to keep him in isolation,” said the nurse on conditions of anonymity.
“PPE is required during this time, but it depends on a patient’s type of diagnosis. If the patient is COVID-19 positive, then we do need full PPE which are being used by staff and doctors of every shift… maybe for the morning, evening, night staff plus the doctor.”
According to her, it also depends on the hospital management how they want to run it. And in her medical facility, the system is slightly different. “The management itself is providing us the N95 mask and the goggles. We don’t bill it to the patient except for gloves and apron. But some hospitals out here are charging a lot. Feel really bad for some patients,” she said without revealing her employer’s name.
Now, if this happens in the heart of Kolkata, one shudders to imagine what must be happening in different pockets and corners away from the glare of the eastern metropolis. It’s time for the authorities to strike while the iron is hot. Is anyone listening?