The civic body health department will soon issue notices to private hospitals to display rate cards in the premises, following a Bombay high court order in July making it mandatory for medical institutes to display the information.
The deputy director of health recently sent a circular to the NashikMunicipal Corporation (NMC) asking them to implement the order of the court. This will make it mandatory for all medical establishments to display the schedule of charges payable for different treatments, surgeries and other services on the notice board like that in government hospitals. The rate card is expected to end billing disputes between patients and hospitals.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) that had taken objection to government decision remains firm on its stand. Rahul Aher, president of the Nashik branch of IMA, said that the central organization was following up the issue with the authorities concerned and is trying to get the proposal stalled.
“Displaying the rate card is not a good idea for the doctor or the patient. This will worsen the doctor-patient relationship. The bed charges and the doctor’s fees are displayed by big hospitals and are also on the hospital records. The hospitals also give rate cards and when the patient goes to the hospital, the receptionist also asks about the category that they would like to opt for treatment,” he said.
Aher added that hospitals do not charge patients as per every injection and all these are charged under drug cost. The surgical charges vary as per the complications, though the type of surgery may be the same.
“The operation theatre charges are proportional to the surgical charges. No doctor will keep the patient on operation table or on anesthesia for long hours. This rate card system like hotels is not good. This would increase the distrust between the patient and the doctors,” he said.
A city doctor said that it was an unfair move and if the rates increase due to health complications during the treatment, the patient would feel cheated.
Some doctors, however, welcomed the move saying that it will bring in transparency in hospital administration. “The more the transparency, the better it is as the patient will at least know the approximate amount for various treatments,” said medical practitioner Raviraj Khairnar.
Administrator of Apollo Hospitals Sudheer Rai said, “It is a good thing and the patient and relatives will know what they are spending and what each treatment costs. This is the right thing to do. Transparency is anytime good. We have a tariff booklet and plan to display the rate card in two languages.”
On July 1, Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kendre while directing that the hospitals should display rates also stressed that the hospitals cannot hold back the bodies over non-payment of bills.
The bench was hearing two petitions against two well-known hospitals in Mumbai. The bench decided to treat one of the petitions as a public interest litigation to address the larger issues so that directions can be given, guidelines framed and mechanism evolved to help hospitals recover their dues. During the hearing, the government clarified that hospitals have no legal right to detain patients, though they can file suits to recover their money; even foreign courts. Currently, there is no mechanism to regulate hospitals over recovery of bills.
Justice Kanade also pointed out that in some cases the doctors do not even visit the patients and yet the fees are charged for the same. Noting that hospitals have not yet done so and based on the complaints with respect to it, the deputy director of health sent the notice to the NMC along with a sample of how the rates are to be displayed.