A visit to the hospital, either for a surgical procedure or for an out-patient consultation, is likely to be more expensive for people seeking treatment for non COVID-19 related ailments. Private hospitals in the city are planning to introduce a new “service charge” to recover the cost incurred for providing personal protective equipment (PPE) kits to staff and for putting in place a slew of other precautionary measures in light of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
This surcharge is likely to increase the total bill by 10%.
R. Ravindra, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes’ Association (PHANA), said that most of the 326 private hospitals in the city will levy this surcharge in the coming weeks.
“The rates to treat COVID-19 patients are fixed and all costs are included. But for non COVID-19 patients, who come on an out-patient basis or come to the hospital for any procedure, the cost will increase,” he said. Some hospitals have already started billing the extra 10% charge, and most others will implement it in the coming weeks.
Hospital managements that The Hindu spoke to said that they tried not to pass on the burden to patients, but admitted that it was becoming increasingly uneconomical as they have to procure PPE, face shields, masks, gloves, and sanitisers to ensure that both their staff and patients do not contract the virus in the hospital.
A few hospitals, like HOSMAT, are not planning to add the extra charge, but instead are asking patients to provide the necessary PPE kits that they require. Ajit Benedict Royan, medical director, HOSMAT Hospital, said that they are asking the patients who have to undergo the surgeries to procure PPEs for their staff from their pharmacy. “We ask the patient’s family to buy PPEs from the pharmacy in the hospital. A maximum of three PPEs have to be procured for each surgery,” he said.
Another reason for the surcharge is that people are not going to hospitals unless absolutely necessary or are delaying medical treatment.
The managing director of another private hospital in Bengaluru said that the patient flow in the hospital is still 50% lower than what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic in March. “It has become extremely difficult to run the hospitals and we are struggling to meet our recurring costs and pay salaries to our employees. We have no other option other than including this surcharge,” he said.
Patients, particularly those who do not have insurance, say that even a 10% increase will be steep. “I was able to get insurance coverage for my father who is over 65 years. Even a small escalation in cost will affect middle-class families like us dramatically,” said a 40-year-old software engineer.