The Coronavirus cases in Delhi are soaring rapidly and have gone well beyond 40,000-mark. Given the poor public health infrastructure, the Delhi government has roped in private hospitals to treat the Covid-infected patients. But the patients have alleged that exorbitant rates makes private hospitals out of bounds of for them.
Several people have alleged that hospitals are asking for hefty amounts for admission and treatment of Covid-19 patients. Patients and their relatives also allege that hospitals are trying to make the most of the grim scenario without realising people’s financial miseries.
The lockdown has crippled the country financially with tens and thousands of people losing their jobs. In such a scenario, if someone tests positive for Covid-19, he is left with little options for the treatment — the government-run hospitals are in a poor condition while the private hospitals are unaffordable for most of the people, given the exorbitant rates.
FICCI Health Services Committee, a non-government body of private hospitals, has proposed to the government to fix daily treatment cost in three slabs starting from Rs 17,000 to Rs 45,000, depending on the medical condition of a patient.
Outlook spoke to several hospitals to find out why the treatment Covid-19 patients is expensive. Some of the hospital authorities said that the exorbitant price list being circulated on social media is only for patients who are critical and need ventilator or oxygen support besides other treatment and nursing care.
Private hospitals claim that most people don’t realise that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a huge increase in the cost of treatment due to factors peculiar to this highly virulent disease and that the team of healthcare workers treating patients poses an extraordinary risk to themselves and their own families.
Mahipal Singh Bhanot, Zonal Director, Fortis Hospital, says “by and large, 20 to 30 per cent staff is not available at work because either they are in quarantine for seven days after seven-day work, or in 17-day isolation due to contracting infection from patients.”
“As per the protocol, we have to give seven-day break to a healthcare professional for working for similar days in Covid-19 ward. We have to hire hotels for their quarantine as we can’t mix them with another workforce,” Bhanot said, adding that every hospital has to make three to four teams of healthcare workers to maintain rotation.
“We can’t go home also as we might be the carrier of the virus. In seven days of quarantine, if a healthcare worker develops symptoms, he or she has to go for isolation for another 17 days,” says a doctor treating Covid-19 patients.
Yogesh Sareen, Senior Director and Chief Financial Officer, Max Healthcare, says that his hospital has rented quarantine facilities for its staff at five hotels including Four Point Sheraton, Hilton, Pride Plaza, Oyo Hotels and Palms Green as well three hostels in the neighbourhood of Max.
Further, in most Covid-19 hospitals, the staff shift is for six hours, rather than the usual eight hours which necessitates 25 per cent more staff. Covid-19 duty drains healthcare workers of all energy as they can’t eat, drink or go to washroom in their specially-designed personal protective equipment (PPE).
Dismissing the allegations of profiteering, Sareen says, “Today, we are running close to 1,000 Covid beds and have so far treated over 2,000 patients. We have 1,970 healthcare workers taking care of these patients round the clock. We had over 427 healthcare workers falling sick and admitted. We had 3,220 staff quarantined and intermittently off-work over the last 2.5 months, yet we continue to serve.”
“We provide research-backed cutting-edge care and our outcomes are comparable to the best. This does make Covid care expensive,” he says.
Doctors also admit that the disease progression treatment modalities for Covid-19 varies for every patient leading to significant additional costs.
Dr Narottam Puri, Advisor, FICCI Health Services Committee, says people have less faith in public hospitals as compared to private hospitals as they fear for hygiene and quality of care in the former. Dr Puri’s assertion seems reasonable as in Delhi while beds are vacant in many government hospitals, private hospitals are getting overcrowded.
Private hospitals also say they won’t object if the government fixes a rational price range for Covid-19 treatment taking all these challenges into consideration.
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