Kerala government introduces universal pricing system for private hospitals treating COVID patients

Approving the decision, the high court said the GO dated May 10, 2021 shall be implemented by the government and all stakeholders and any admissions after this order will be governed by the rates
Representative Image (Pic: PTI)
Representative Image (Pic: PTI)

Days after the Kerala High Court expressed concern over the high fees levied by private hospitals on COVID-19 patients, the State government said on Monday that it has put a cap on the charges and introduced a universal pricing system for its treatment.

The state government said this in the Court when it considered a plea alleging that private hospitals and testing centres were charging high bills to "exploit the pandemic situation and fear of people in the society." The petitioner, a lawyer, had sought directions from the court to take remedial measures to regularise the high charges imposed by private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.

On Monday, the government counsel informed the court that it has decided to put a ceiling on prices to be charged by private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment. The counsel said government has issued an order on Monday in this regard. As per the Government Order (GO), the price for general ward would be Rs 2,645 per day. Registration, bed, nursing and boarding, blood transfusion, oxygen, Xray, consultation, diagnosis etc will be covered in this charge.

"There shall not be exorbitant pricing of COVID related consumables like PPE, pulse oximeter, masks, portable Oxygen cylinders and consumables else, action shall be initiated by the District Collector against the concerned ,under relevant provisions of the law. No shops or hospitals shall charge more than MRP, for these items," the government said in the order.

Noting that COVID bed occupancy in hospitals are reaching saturation in many districts in both government and private hospitals, the government said it has also decided to set apart 50 per cent of the beds in government, private (including private medical colleges), cooperative and ESI Hospitals exclusively for the treatment of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalisation.

Approving the decision, the high court said the GO dated May 10, 2021 shall be implemented by the government and all stakeholders and any admissions after this order will be governed by the rates. "All private hospitals would be bound to offer treatment strictly as per GO and any violation will be strictly dealt with," a division bench, comprising Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagth, said. The court said it was more than pleased with the GO.

In an interim order, the High Court had directed the state to arrive at treatment package rate for private hospitals for walk-in COVID-19 patients before the next sitting. The government said multiple rounds of discussions were held with private hospital associations by the principal secretary, health, state health agency and director of health services. Based on the discussions, the rates to be charged by the private hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 were recommended.

The government said charges for various treatments, consumables, medicines, doctors and nursing should be made known to the public and will be monitored by the secretary Clinical Establishment Act. "If any hospital is found to be charging more than the rates. They shall be levied a penalty which shall be ten times the additional charges by the concerned DMO(H)," it said.

Last week, the high court had directed the state government to take steps to introduce a uniform tariff rate for COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals. Expressing concern over the high treatment charges in private hospitals, the court had emphasised the need for rationalising COVID-19 treatment tariff in such facilities in the state.

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