At a time when the economic situation is weak, and people are struggling to make ends meet, the state government, in a bid to prevent overcharging by private hospitals for covid treatment has placed price caps on COVID charges, although, the rates appear to be ‘out of the common man’s league’.
As per the order issued by Under Secretary Health Swati Dalvi, the rates at private hospitals are divided based on four categories.
With the capped prices, one may have to shell out lakhs of rupees if one chooses a private hospital for COVID treatment in the state.
According to the new capped rates, private hospitals cannot charge more than Rs 12,000 per day for a general ward and Rs 15,000 a day for a twin sharing room. A single room charge has been priced at Rs 18,000 a day, while the ICU rates, with a ventilator, are capped at Rs 25,000 a day at private hospitals.
“The above charges include bed charges, nursing, resident doctor, diet, PPE kits for staff, routine medicines,” the order says.
However, the above rates do not cover the charges of the diagnostic intensivist, specialist/intensivist charges, use of special drugs, use of special equipment, and other procedures, something if one requires in due course of treatment, will result in more money being spent on treatment.
As per the rates, many say that asymptomatic patients in an ICU could end up paying up to Rs 4-5 lakhs, if not more. The common people however are not pleased with the government’s decision. Private medical care – prior to the coronavirus pandemic – had already been out of reach for many middle and lower-income families in the state.
The Chief Minister however justified the high rates saying that the treatment given at GMC is on par with the private hospitals.
“We are giving the best of facilities at GMC and other government hospitals and nobody is forcing anyone to go to private hospitals. It is based on their own choice,” he said yesterday evening.
This however doesn’t justify the rates, as many have argued that providing affordable medical care to the people is the duty of the government. Furthermore, the government had ‘enough’ time to ramp up certain facilities such as beds and logistics in view of the rising cases, however, it sat comfortably on the ‘green state tag’.
The capping of prices although needed, hasn’t provided much respite to the general public. Almost all locals have opined that the staggering rates are still high, and the government has failed at making these COVID facilities ‘affordable’.
Most local Goans have opined that these rates are staggeringly high and ‘not in the reach of any common man’, especially considering the economic situation of many during this time
“When most people have no jobs, the government instead of subsidizing services like healthcare and electricity are out to fleece the public,” said a local on social media.
Another said, “If the government is unable to provide enough beds to patients in government hospitals, they (government) should pay the bills of people getting admitted in private hospitals.”
The undefined link however continues to revolve – is the government, with such rates, working towards the benefit of the people, or that of private hospitals.
Also, some have even questioned the motive of such high rates, as a noticed trend continues to remain, that most seeking COVID care at private institutions are political leaders. One even questioned if the leaders will be paying for their medical treatments themselves, or by virtue of being netas, their bills will be paid from the tax-payers money.
Another resident also expressed his disappointment with the rates, saying that any person with other co-morbid conditions who would need at least 10-15 days of hospitalization would end up paying in lakhs. “Not everyone can afford that,” he said.
The government, in a bid to increase COVID facilities, will be commissioning the South Goa district hospital into a 250-bedded COVID hospital this week. Despite having the entire premises available much earlier, the government only waited until the end, till other facilities became full.
No doubt the medical fraternity continues to work tirelessly at providing the best of healthcare to the people, but the lack of determination to serve the public and the citizens from the path of the government speaks volumes of the governments ‘priorities.’