Your next trip to the dentist or even your neighbourhood general practitioner is likely to cost more. While they have been gradually opening their clinics and restarting practice for limited hours a day, many have increased consultation fees. Some stand-alone clinics in Benglauru have raised their rates by as much as 30%.

Medical professionals justify this saying they are not only more vulnerable to exposure to the coronavirus but have to invest in safety measures for their staff and patients. This includes buying face shields, gloves, masks and sanitisers. Dentists are investing in all of the above as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as they are at a higher risk of contracting the virus given the nature of their job.

While patients understand the logic behind the higher consultation fees, it will be added financial burden given that many are balancing household budgets after taking paycuts.

Supriya S., an employee of a multinational company said she went to her dentist on Monday. “Normally my dentist charges ₹400 for consultation. This time, I was asked to pay ₹500, and was told that the increase was because of the additional safety measures provided by the clinic. I had no option but to agree to pay the revised fees,” she said.

A general practitioner in North Bengaluru said he opened his clinic after a span of two months on Monday. “I thought of hiking my consultation fees by ₹50 to meet the costs of all the precautionary measures. But I had to increase to ₹100 as fewer patients are coming to the clinic, so the overhead cost for each patient is higher,” he said. The GP said before the pandemic he would treat around 20 patients a day, which has now reduced to six patients.

This trend is observed primarily in stand-alone clinics. R. Ravindra, President of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association said only a few hospitals have hiked their consultation and outpatient fees. “The hike is around 10%. Although procuring PPEs and masks adds to our expenditure, we are trying to manage without passing on the burden to our patients,” he said.

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