The hospitals take advantage when you are at your most vulnerable state, as they know that you will be ready to shell out whatever they ask for to save the life of your loved one
Where do you take your loved ones when they are seriously ill and battling a life or death situation? The unanimous answer would be hospitals, where they are supposed to get the best of treatment and care.
Government hospitals all over the country provide treatment at quite a low price, but the quality of care here is shoddy to say the least. Go to any government hospital and you are bound to find patients lying on the floor due to unavailability of beds , and one doctor attending hundred patients. In fact, a recent study by medical journal Lancet states that every day 4,300 people die to due to lack of proper healthcare in the public sector in India.
In such a situation, people now look to private hospitals, who promise the best state of the art healthcare facilities. But it comes at a cost – a huge one at that.
My father on November 3, was hospitalised due to an inflammation in his groin, which caused a lot of pain, even resulting in high fever. At first, he was hospitalised in a smaller nursing home near my home in Kolkata.
But suddenly, on the night of November 6, his blood pressure fell drastically, and in the middle of the night, my mother got a call from the hospital where she was informed that he had been transferred to the ICU as he was ‘extremely critical’. The doctor reached there around 3.30 am, and after inspecting my father, informed that he had suffered a silent heart attack and also a condition called ventricular tachycardia- wherein the heart stopped beating for five-six seconds. The doctor said that he needed to be shifted to a bigger hospital where he would get the proper cardiac support.
The next morning, we shifted him to one of the most reputed private hospitals in the city, whose tagline is “quality treatment at affordable prices”. During the time of shifting, the nursing home refused to discharge my father, because we “had to make the payment”. The bill was around 43,000 and we tried to assure that we would pay them at the earliest, they still refused to let my father leave, even though his condition was deteriorating.
His inflammation had to be operated, as doctors detected an infection that had formed due to it, which was spreading rapidly all over his body due to diabetes, thus affecting the heart.
The operation was successful and he was shifted to the ICU, where he was put in semi ventilation i.e on life support. He was breathing through an oxygen mask, and needles were inserted on both his hands and even his neck. Seeing him in such a state made my heart cry. It is then I realised how frightening the thought of losing your parent – one of the persons you love most in this world – can be.
Slowly and steadily, and with due diligence put in by the team of doctors, my father started to recover. But another shock awaited. When we went to the accounts section to ask for a bill, we saw that they had charged 2.5 lakhs on the first two days of treatment.
But what we didn’t realise is that since he was in the ICU, all charges taken by the hospital would be tripled, including the cost of medicines. For example, if a blood test costs Rs 500 normally, Rs 1,500 would be charged for the same test for a patient admitted in the ICU. Add to the fact that ICU bed charge was Rs 9000 per day.
After around seven days in the ICU, the doctors advised that he be shifted to a cabin, as now he was out of danger and needed to be in hospital only for the medicines and the dressing of his wound. The bill now stood at around four lakhs. Since his dressing was to be done in a very sensitive area of the body, the surgeon advised that it be done in the operation theatre, and then he would be shifted to a cabin.
But according to some bizarre hospital policy, an ICU patient cannot be transferred to a cabin from the OT. He had to be transferred back to the ICU for ‘24-hour observation’. The last 2-3 days he spent at the ICU was not required, as even the doctors said that he was not critical now.
Finally he was shifted to a general cabin – which was priced at Rs 10,000 per night, and so we opted for a twin sharing cabin – which was priced at Rs 6,000. And what facilities did he get at such a high price? A TV which was placed at such a corner that my father couldn’t even see it. Even the attendants were rude, as one of them even picked a fight with my father, who had a weak heart.
The hospital then asked us to buy medicines on our own, as our medical insurance limit had expired. But the catch was that we had to buy them from the hospital pharmacy itself, as their policy doesn’t allow us to buy from outside. What’s the problem with this? Well, let me give you an example. A 10 ml bottle of Hydrogen peroxide which is priced at a maximum of Rs 10 was being sold here for Rs 40.
When we asked the accounts department for an estimate, as he had to stay in the hospital for five more days to complete his antibiotic treatment cycle, they said that it would cost Rs 50,000 per day- which amounted to Rs 2.5 lakh more to the current bill, which already came to five lakhs by now. It was too much money for us, and that is when we decided to take action.
We knew the deputy mayor of Kolkata and he wrote a letter to the hospital demanding a reduction in the hospital bill. I even barged in the hospital director’s office, showed my press card and informed him to do something otherwise the matter may go to the press.
So, when the final bill came, it was around 5.9 lakhs. From the estimated cost of Rs 50,000 per day it miraculously came down to 18,000 per day. We even got a 15% discount on all the medicines we bought.
The hospitals take advantage when you are at your most vulnerable state, as they know that you will be ready to shell out whatever they ask for to save the life of your loved one.
So, in India either you go to a government hospital and die due to lack of proper healthcare or you get treated but lose most of your life savings.