COVID-19: Hyderabad hospitals investigated for booking beds in advance for VIPs, wealthy families

Hyderabad: Private hospitals in Hyderabad are facing a government probe for allegedly accepting advance bookings from VIPs and rich families at a payment of Rs150,000 (Dh7,300) per bed. This has come on top of a slew of complaints from ordinary people over charging exorbitant bills and exploiting COVID-19 patients.

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Even as patients were complaining that they were being forced to pay millions of rupees for Coronavirus treatment, new allegations have come to light that the corporate hospitals were keeping their fully equipped beds for the VIPs and rich families while refusing to admit patients from not so well off families.

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Complainants said that in some cases corporate hospitals were charging up to Rs 150,000 per day advance booking fees from rich families. This way the VIPs were ensuring that the bed would be available to them whenever they needed it.

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Paying huge amounts

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“Corporate hospitals were showing a shortage of beds when in reality there is no such shortage. Whenever somebody is insisting that a private hospital should charge the fee fixed by the state government, management was simply declaring non availability of beds”, one of the complainants told the government officials.

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Dr. G Srinivas Rao, director, public health and the state coordinator for corona cases confirmed the complaints. “Some VIPs fearing that they might be infected or might need a bed in emergency, were paying huge amounts for booking beds in advance. This is completely unethical and a serious issue. A detailed inquiry will be conducted in to all such complaint which have become rampant over the last one month”, he said.

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According to the official sources the complaints received were about four big corporate hospitals in Hyderabad and apparently a group of middlemen were also at work.

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Sources said that the hospitals were receiving the advance booking clandestinely after doing a background check and ensuring that there was no attempt to trap them.

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Scarcity of beds

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Mostly celebrities, film star, politicians and big businessmen including jewellers were making such arrangements for themselves and their families.

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“It is all about fears. These VIPs were afraid that they may not get a bed equipped with oxygen cylinder and ventilator and try to reassure themselves by making such advance bookings”, said a senior doctor. “In the process they are creating a scarcity of beds”.

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In case of not-so-well-off families bringing a critical patients these hospitals were demanding advance payment of Rs half a million before admitting and starting the treatment, relative of another patient said.

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This is in sharp contrast to the state government order issued on June 15, 2020 fixing the rate of various treatments of COVID-19 cases in private hospitals. They include Rs 4,000 per day for routine isolation wards, Rs 7,500 per day for ICU without ventilator, Rs 9,000 for ICU with ventilator and isolation. But no private or corporate hospital seems to be following the order.

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On the other hand they have come up with many other methods to fleece the patients. A 55-year old lawyer Sridhar Singh has lodged complaint with the Hyderabad city police that despite his test report returning negative, a private hospital-Deccan Hospital -admitted him to Covid ward and charged him a bill of Rs 300,000 for treatment over three days.

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When his sample was sent for test, the hospital had given the mobile number of one of its employees and the negative report was kept hidden from him.

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After realizing that he was being taken for a ride, the lawyer raised an alarm and sought help from his colleagues who forced the hospital to discharge him. He came out of hospital only after paying the huge bill.

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Same hospital

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It was the same private hospital against which another person Anreddy Radhesh had complained of exorbitant billing. He said he had to spend Rs 4 million for the treatment of his three family members, all of whom died during treatment.

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Meanwhile, the state health minister Etala Rajender has urged the people not to head to the private hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 as sufficient beds were available in government hospitals including 900 beds in the newly inaugurated Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad. He directed the officials not to turn away patients seeking admission in government hospitals.

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