This now makes it mandatory for private hospitals to offer discounts on high-end medicines, consumables and investigations—these were restricted to Covid patients only—to all those admitted for treatment. Urging the commission to re-consider the advisory, private hospitals pointed out it would be an enormous financial burden on them at a time when they were facing monetary challenge.
In August, WBCERC issued an advisory, asking hospitals to offer a 10% discount on high-end drugs and 20% discount on investigation charges and consumables. It also fixed a daily cap of Rs 1,000 on doctors’ consultation fees, which could be raised to Rs 2,000 in case the patient needed to be examined by a super-specialist. The new advisory said, “It has been noticed that some clinical establishments have non-clarity regarding its (advisories) application. They have the wrong notion that these are applicable to the treatment of Covid patients only. Now, it is made abundantly clear that all the advisories will be applicable to all the patients irrespective of Covid status.”
Contesting the claim that the earlier advisory had extended discounts to non-Covid patients, some private hospitals said they would seek a withdrawal of the order. “Discounts to Covid patients are justified as the expenses are often very high, especially for those who need ICU care. But if medicines and investigations are discounted for all, it will be difficult for us to sustain our operations. It will also send out a wrong signal that we overcharge patients,” said AMRI Hospitals CEO Rupak Barua.
This could be a major setback for hospitals struggling to strike a balance between Covid and non-Covid patients, felt Peerless Hospital CEO Sudipta Mitra. “We have made major investments on resources for Covid treatment at a time when other patients were very few. Now, the number of non-Covid patients is on the rise and Covid units may have to shrink soon. So, our financial burden will increase manifold,” said Mitra. Another private hospital chief said they would not follow the advisory. “We are not in a position to offer discounts to all patients. So far, we have barely managed to offer it to Covid patients,” he said.
Most hospitals were finding it difficult to provide 20% rebate to Covid patients on consumables and medicines, said Barua. “Consumables and drugs have a thin margin. If it has to be extended to all, we will be under severe financial stress. We appeal to the commission to restrict discounts to Covid patients,” added Barua.