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Pune hospitals send SOS after political interference

Association of Hospitals in Pune (AHP) has witnessed a new emerging trend wherein patients, despite having the financial capacity to pay hospital bills seek help from political parties, organisations and so-called health activists to escape from paying the bill post-treatment. Several prominent hospitals in the city have witnessed such incidents and have decided to take up the issue with the Pune Police Commissioner.

The Association claim prominent hospitals like Ruby Hall Clinic, Jehangir Hospital, Noble Hospital, KEM Hospital, Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital amongst other members of the association are coming across at least a couple of such patients in a week. Patients are admitted to the hospital in emergency cases with or without any deposit money and later during discharge the health activists and political parties get involved and get the patients discharged without paying the bills.

The situation becomes difficult after a patient’s death leaving hardly any hope for bill payment.

On March 21, a 64-year-old male patient was admitted to a private hospital complaining of breathlessness. He was later diagnosed with pneumonia and died four days later while undergoing treatment. The family had paid no advance payment or deposit, and a total bill of ₹2.50 lakh was due. Later, local corporators and activists got involved and the family without paying a single penny took the dead body of the patient and left.

Dr H K Sale, executive director of Noble Hospital and chairman, AHP, said, this has become a frequent practice and hospital authorities have decided to take up the issue with the Pune Police Commissioner.

“Initially the kin claim to be ready to pay the bill and want the best treatment for their patient. But at the time of discharge, they claim they don’t have money to pay the bill. The activists and party members get involved and threaten to create chaos at the hospital. This is a pressure tactic, and the hospitals have to finally give up,” he said.

In another incident reported last week, a 32-year-old patient was admitted to a private hospital on Bund Garden Road for Chronic Liver disease. The patient was an employee of a bank and had company-provided insurance. The treatment was initiated after interim insurance approval but during discharge, the insurance claim was rejected. The bill amount for the treatment was ₹5 lakh and the family claimed to have no money. Later around 30 to 40 people from a political party gathered at the hospital around 9.30, creating chaos within the healthcare premises. The patient was discharged without paying any money.

AHP claims the patients are from well-to-do families and can pay the bill.

Dr Behram Khodaiji, chief executive officer of Ruby Hall Clinic, said, “We try and help the patient to the maximum extent we can if the patient is needy and poor. Even after that if the patient cannot pay, we often forego. However, we try to discourage political party and group involvement who just want to get some brownie points out of the situation.”

Dr Khodaiji, added, “Political involvement should be needlessly discouraged and there is no other way. People come in cars, have the best of mobiles and watches and don’t want to pay the bill.”

Gopal Phadke, General Manager, Jehangir Hospital, said, the kin of patients before admission are counselled about the bill payments and charges to avoid any chaos in future.

“This is harassment of the hospitals and should be stopped and the government should support us,” he said. Hindustan Times

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