An appeal to the CM to make Covid-19 testing free in private hospitals
No one in the world was prepared for this pandemic and the governments and the medical professionals are doing their best to tackle the spread and treat the patients. Unfortunately, the numbers are overwhelming, and the administration is finding it a big challenge to manage the developments. Thus the government has roped in private hospitals to treat COVID patients.
We are very happy to note that the honourable chief minister of Karnataka B. S. Yediyurappa and the government has, on a best effort basis, taken all the necessary steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate the quick action taken by the Medical Education Minister when the media recently highlighted the inhuman and disrespectful way the bodies of the deceased were disposed of by the staff in Bellary. We also acknowledge the efforts in setting up a 10000 bed COVID facility for asymptomatic patients at Bangalore International Exhibition Centre.
The plight of the patients
In these tough times when the livelihood of the people is affected and there is a loss of income, the cost of treatment in private hospitals is a bigger blow to the patients and families. The exorbitant cost of treatment in private hospitals is worse than the infection itself. Patients have to run around from hospital to hospital for any medical care. Recently a patient in a critical condition had to visit over 12 hospitals because none of them was willing to admit the patient and he finally died. Government hospitals treat patients only if they have a COVID positive certificate and private hospitals treat patients only if they have a COVID negative certificate. This puts the patients and families in great distress.
The basic requirement to be treated at any private hospital today for any medical condition is a COVID test and they charge an amount of 4500+ INR for the test only. There are instances where private hospitals charge 6000 INR for COVID testing. The additional 1500 INR is billed as sample handling charges. Hospitals otherwise insist on a COVID Negative certificate. Waiting for the COVID negative certificate critical time is lost and there is no treatment given to patients but the patients are billed in the hospital. The line of treatment is determined by the secondary symptoms exhibited by patients.
Private hospitals are known to admit only asymptomatic patients and patients with mild Influenza-like illness. There is no control over the billing in private hospitals. They do not adhere to the cap imposed by the government.
The dead need to be treated with respect
In our Indian culture, the bodies of the dead are treated with great respect and the last rites are performed with reverence. It is still a practice among us to stop on the road and let the hearse van coming in the opposite direction to pass us as a mark of respect to the departed. Recently the media reports of dead bodies of COVID positive patients dumped in mass graves by the staff was very disturbing to watch and made us wonder where has all our traditional values gone? The government is also identifying burials grounds exclusively for COVID deaths. Meanwhile, COVID Positive patients who die are cremated by the government and the body is not handed over to the family.
COVID can infect anyone and everyone. It does not discriminate between the rich and the poor. The wealthy can choose where they want to be treated either government hospital or a private hospital. But the majority of people in our state do not have the privilege of this choice and have to depend on government hospitals. The government hospitals have the most qualified and best in class treatment but unfortunately, the infrastructure is limited, and people are compelled to seek treatment in private hospitals.
Two main concerns
The 4500+ INR currently charged by private hospitals for COVID-19 testing is exorbitant and is unaffordable to the common man.
There is also exploitation of the family members of deceased COVID patients by some vested interests. Two days ago the husband of a COVID deceased patient in a government hospital who is also COVID positive was asked to pay for the PPE of the personnel and sanitation of the vehicle that transported the dead body to the crematorium. I am not sure if this is the official policy that the family has to pay for the PPE and sanitation of the ambulance. If it is not the official policy, the concerned authorities should investigate this matter and take necessary action against the heartless people in government hospitals
who are exploiting the families of the COVID positive deceased.
On behalf of the marginalized common man who lives from hand to mouth, it is my humble request to B. S. Yediyurappa the honourable Chief Minister of Karnataka to make COVID testing free in private hospitals for all, and make COVID treatment in private hospitals cashless and reimburse the charges directly to the private hospitals.
Also, the government should clarify the matter of the family of COVID positive deceased having to pay for PPE of the ambulance personnel and sanitation of the ambulance that transports the body to the crematorium. If the clarification is negative kindly investigate and take stringent action against the concerned. If by an outside chance it is true that the family has to pay for these charges, kindly reconsider this on humanitarian grounds.
by Robert Clive
Social worker and an activist, Bangalore