BMC report finds Nanavati hospital charged woman – who died in June – for 5 PPE kits, 3 N95 masks and 12+ hours of oxygen every day, and conducted many “unnecessary” tests.

A BMC audit of the case of a 52-year-old woman who died of Covid-19 at Juhu’s Nanavati hospital last month has revealed how the hospital has been overcharging coronavirus patients in “innovative” ways. Admitted to the hospital on May 31, the woman died on June 13. Her bill was Rs 6.78 lakh.

The audit revealed that not only did the hospital charge the woman for five personal protective equipment (PPE) kits a day, it charged her separately for three N95 masks -which are meant to be part of the PPE kit – every day. The report also found that the hospital conducted several unnecessary tests on the woman, and that many of the tests were conducted between 1 am and 3 am to allow the hospital to charge more for them.

Based on the audit report, the BMC lodged a complaint against Nanavati hospital last week, which was turned into a first information report (FIR) under Section 188 (disobeying regulations under Epidemic Act) and 34 (a criminal act by several persons in furtherance of a common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

The FIR, which names the hospital’s trustees and chairman, says that the patient was even charged for basic drugs such as paracetamol. The audit report noted, “Basic drugs like paracetamol, B complex and aspirin are priced nominally and are part of the package. Despite this they were charged separately.”

The BMC’s auditors also found that the hospital had conducted several tests on the woman multiple times, and that many of the tests were done between 1 am and 3 am to allow the hospital to hike the cost. The tests were reviewed by doctors at the BMC’s Sion hospital, who said many of them were not needed. “Blood gas analysis and C Reactive Protein tests were carried out several times. Many tests were carried out between 1 am and 3 am and the prices were hiked in the bill,” the auditors noted in their report. The report also noted that the hospital had billed the woman for more than 12 hours of oxygen use a day.

A senior civic official said the report showed that between May 31 and June 13, Nanavati Hospital had violated the state government’s rules on Covid-19 treatment charges. In this and several other cases, patients were overcharged despite state government capping treatment charges, the official said.

Dr Prashant Narnaware, a nodal officer appointed to audit Covid-19 bills issued by private hospitals, said, “We had come across several inflated bills from Nanavati hospital. The hospital claimed that they were inflated because of accounting errors and reduced the amounts. But we later found out that their charges were exorbitant and there was some mischief. These were not just accounting mistakes. We got the bills reviewed by Sion hospital doctors before filing the FIR. If hospitals don’t stop inflating bills, we will file more FIRs.”

Mumbai Mirror had last month reported that a teenager got a bill of around Rs 6.5 lakh from Nanavati hospital. She had Covid-19 and was at the hospital for 23 days. Her bill included “care and hygiene” charges of Rs 53,850 and “staff management” charges of Rs 38,000. The woman then took up the issue with MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande, who demanded an audit of the bill.

“The BMC must tell us how many bills have been audited by them. When we took up the issue with the hospital, they gave a discount of Rs 2 lakh. Even in the case of the 52-year-old women who died, we had complained to the state government. The police must arrest the top management of the hospital for cheating people. No action has been taken by the police after [filing] the FIR. We will have to take up this issue with higher authorities since the police are not taking any action,” Deshpande said.

A spokesperson for Nanavati Hospital said, “We are yet to formally receive a copy of the FIR. We are closely working with the authorities concerned to look into the concerns raised in this case.” Shriram Koregoankar, senior police inspector, Santacruz police station, said, “Our probe is on. We are collecting invoices and other documents pertaining to the case.”

The state government had last month issued a revised notification to cap treatment charges for Covid-19 and nearly 200 non-Covid procedures in private hospitals. As per the order, the capped rates will apply to 80% of hospital beds, while the management can charge their own prices for the remaining 20%. The price caps will stay in effect until August 31.

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