Price of treating Covid patientsWere Pvt hospitals consulted ?
Not the first State in India, but already the decision of the Government of Manipur to put a cap on the charges levied by private hospitals for treating COVID-19 positive patients appears to have run into rough water. It was on May 26 that the Government of Manipur decided to put a cap on what private hospitals can and should charge while treating patients down with Covid and came out with a detailed list on how much per day the private hospitals may charge such as patients in general or isolation ward without oxygen support per day. The cost per day at general or isolation ward with oxygen, patients in High Dependency Unit, patients in Intensive Care Unit with or without ventilator use etc. The Government went on to lay down that the charges laid down are inclusive of registration charge, bed charge, nursing and boarding charge, medicine and drugs etc. However as things have transpired, not all private hospitals are ready or are in a position to comply with the rates fixed by the Government and herein lies the tale of a grandson of a late 75 year old woman who has written to the Deputy Secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Department of the Government, contending that a private hospital has charged nearly Rs 3 lakh for three/four days care. This is where the catch lies. Was the rate fixed by the Government arbitrary ? That is a decision taken without consulting the different private medical hospitals operating in the State, particularly in Imphal ? Did the Government overlook the fact that all private hospitals too are business ventures in a sense and therefore cannot be expected to work on a loss basis ? Was the rate worked out by the Government a purely populist decision without taking the interests of the different private hospitals into consideration ? And if the rates worked out by the Government are not tenable, was any voice of concern or opposition raised by the different private medical hospitals ? These are questions which the Government and the private medical institutions should ponder over.
Coming back to the opening line of this commentary, Manipur is not the first State in India to put a fee cap on private medical hospitals. To cite one example, the Government of Kerala did it as way back as May 10. The southern State went one step forward, with the High Court of Kerala stepping in and fully backing the rates worked out by the Government. In approving the rate fixed by the Government there, the High Court of Kerala added that the private hospitals there cannot go on ‘looting’ the people. The Sangai Express is not privy to the earlier rates fixed by the private medical institutions in Kerala, but the judgment of the High Court there is significant. The High Court in the southern State had also proclaimed that it had examined the rates fixed by the State Government there and had found it ‘extremely reasonable.’ Significant to note too that the rates fixed by the Government of Kerala for private hospitals seems to be lower than the ones fixed by the Government here in Manipur. Situations there and here are obviously very different and what works there in South India will not exactly work here and this is where the Government will need to answer whether the private hospitals were taken into confidence before the rate was fixed or whether it was unilateral. If it is the latter then nothing can justify their stand. They have to look at the other side of the fence too.