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Wockhardt Hospital discharges patient after CMO intervened in billing dispute

After a harrowing 36 hours, Halima Sayed, 62, was finally discharged from Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central, on Tuesday evening following a call from the chief minister’s office. The Bandra East resident had been admitted to the hospital on November 11 after being diagnosed with brain haemorrhage.

Despite her sons managing to settle ₹7.9 lakh of the ₹11-lakh bill on Monday through her insurance policy, the hospital insisted on full payment before releasing the patient, prompting the sons to seek assistance from Agripada police station.

“We were told she had suffered brain haemorrhage,” said Mouzzam Sayed, Halima’s younger son. “She underwent a neurosurgery procedure for this on November 12. We were given an estimate of ₹7 lakh, including ICU charges. But on Saturday evening, we were handed a bill of ₹11 lakh.”

The sons claimed that the struggle to get their mother discharged began on Monday morning. “We did not expect a bill of ₹11 lakh,” said Raiyan Sayed, Halima’s other son. “Since the insurance amount is ₹7 lakh, we have applied to the Chief Minister’s Fund and other trusts. We were ready to submit the acknowledgement receipt from the CM fund and other trusts and told the hospital authorities it would take a while before we got the funds. But they insisted on full payment.”

The sons said that when the hospital stopped providing basic treatment to their mother, they approached social activist Aslam Merchant and went to the police station. “She was supposed to be discharged on Monday by 12 pm,” said Mouzzam. “The hospital delayed the insurance procedure. Later, they stopped giving her basic medicines.” While the police accepted the complaint, they asked the hospital administration to resolve the issue.

The hospital discharged Halima at around 7 pm and took only ₹7 lakh instead of ₹11 lakh. “After they got a call from the CM’s office, the hospital decided to discharge her and did not ask for the remaining amount,” said Raiyan.

Merchant posted on X, citing a Bombay high court order on a PIL filed in 2014 by Sanjay Prajapati whose brother was detained for non-payment of bills at Seven Hills Hospital, Marol. “There were other petitions like this,” he said. “The National Human Rights Commission too has guidelines that patients should not be held back for non-payment. There have been several similar instances in this very hospital in the past.”

The social activist questioned the hospital’s bill, saying it was way higher than the initial estimate of ₹7 lakh. “The hospital authorities said they were willing to discharge the patient after issuance of a cheque but there was a dispute over the bill amount,” he said. “In such cases, hospitals can take the patient’s Aadhar card and an undertaking that the patient will pay the remaining amount later. But they cannot detain the patient.”

When questioned, the head of Wockhardt Hospitals sent an email saying that Halima did not pay during admission “as it was an emergency”. He went on to declare how she got the best care, and added that she was discharged on Nov 28. The email did not go into the billing controversy.

Ravi Duggal, a public health researcher and activist, said the government needed to step in and regulate the pricing in private healthcare. “It is a common observation that private hospitals inflate hospital bills the moment they come to know that the patient has insurance cover,” he said. “We have been advocating this price regulation. In its absence, poor patients have no option but to approach the court to fight inflated bill issues.”

Inhuman practice, says HC
The Bombay High Court had called hospitals’ detaining of patients till their medical bills were paid an “inhuman” practice. It was hearing a PIL filed in 2014 by Sanjay Prajapati, whose brother was detained over a disputed bill. The court directed the police to act against the doctors and staff of the hospital for wrongful confinement. Hindustan Times

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