Centre's directive comes at a time when reports are emerging of overcharging by private hospitals for Covid-19 treatment
New Delhi: Amid reports of overcharging by private hospitals for Covid-19 treatment, the Union Health Ministry on Monday directed states to engage with the sector to ensure fair and transparent charges for services provided.
The ministry also asked the states and union territories to facilitate enhanced bed availability and critical care health facilities. “There have been several reports indicating an emerging shortage of healthcare infrastructure including hospitals with ICU beds, ventilators, oxygen supported beds etc., for management of Covid-19 patients," said the government in a statement.
The government said that some states have already taken initiatives in this regard. They have reached an agreement with the private sector on reasonable rates and arrangements to provide critical care for in-patient admissions. The Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB - PMJAY) package and Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) package rates are already available with the states.
“In order to ensure that patients receive prompt, good quality and care at reasonable rates, it has been suggested to states to have consultations with the local private healthcare providers and arrive at reasonable rates, while factoring in cost elements for personal safety equipment for healthcare providers," the health ministry said in a statement.
“It has been suggested that the rates, once fixed, must be widely publicised so that both the patients and service providers are fully aware and capacities are used optimally. States have also been asked to proactively engage with the private sector health providers and consider pooling in public and private healthcare facilities, as this will help in providing prompt, good quality and reasonable health care to Covid-19 patients," the ministry said.
While states such as Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have already capped the charges for Covid-19 treatment, some states are in the process of streamlining these charges. “Health is a state subject. We have asked the states to look into the matter. This is critical time for the country and the private sector should come forward in the health crisis. The state governments should have a healthy dialogue with the private sector and come to mutually amicable decision in the interest of patients," said Harsh Vardhan, union health minister.
Meanwhile, NATHEALTH, Healthcare Federation of India, healthcare service providers' body, on Monday submitted a representation on ‘COVID Package Pricing’ to Satyendra Kumar Jain, Delhi Health Minister. In this joint representation, NATHEALTH has urged the government to continue to push for a higher level of transparency by mandating hospitals to publish their treatment charges. They have also recommended the appointment of ombudsman at zonal level to inspect the complaints of overcharging.