After West Bengal govt nudge, Kolkata private hospitals reducing Covid-19 treatment costs – Times of India

Kolkata News
KOLKATA: Prodded by the state government to ‘rationalize’ Covid costs, private hospitals in Kolkata have reduced treatment charges for the disease by around 30%, even as two are about to introduce ‘Covid packages’ to keep bills in check.
Last Thursday, chief secretary Rajiva Sinha had met the CEOs of more than 20 private hospitals, asking them to take a slew of patient-friendly measures, including rationalising and easing Covid treatment, including standardising testing rates and sharing the cost of PPEs with patients; displaying the number of Covid beds available; and setting up satellite healthcare facilities for those with mild symptoms.

On Wednesday, almost a week after Sinha’s meeting, chief minister Mamata Banerjee herself sent out a strong message to private hospitals, during an all-party meeting. She said the government would urge them to standardise fees and charges for Covid patients and urged the chief secretary to issue fresh guidelines. “I have reports that people are paying through the nose. This is the time to give service to people,” Banerjee said.
A day later, several hospitals told TOI that cheaper PPEs and rationalising its use had helped bring expenses down, apart from a sharp drop in testing costs from last week.
Even though it’s still at a planning stage, Fortis Hospital and another private facility are planning ‘Covid packages’, which are to come with a pre-determined price tag. This would help patients and their kin keep a tab on the total bill, which would not exceed the fixed charge, unless the patient has to be shifted to ICU, representatives of the hospitals explained.
With the price of PPE dropping sharply from Rs 2,500 to under Rs 600 now, costs have been curbed in any case, said Fortis pulmonologist Raja Dhar.
“We have also rationalized PPE use, bringing it down to two per patient a day,” Dhar added. “Cost of treatment has come down by around 30% over the last one month and may come down further. At present, a 10-day stay costs about Rs 1.1 lakh at Fortis. The duration of stay has come down, since a patient can now be released even if he or she hasn’t yet tested negative. So, I think the stress should now be on quarantine and isolation centres or just home quarantine, where they can recover instead of spending money at the hospital.”
AMRI Hospitals, too, is considering a package and has streamlined its treatment protocol to cut out unnecessary expenses. Here, the number of investigations has been reduced by half, said CEO Rupak Barua. “We have an infection control team and a Covid task force, who have devised a new treatment method. Apart from fewer tests, PPE use is now rationalized and Covid testing has turned cheaper,” Barua added. AMRI uses five-six PPEs per patient a day, which now cost a fourth of what they used to till May.
At Peerless Hospital, the cost of PPE has slid to the Rs 400-Rs 600 range. Till May, the price was about four times this amount. Cost of testing, too, has come down to Rs 2,500. “We have rationalized the use of PPEs, bringing it down to two per Covid patient a day, apart from four masks. We can bring it down further, since PPE supply has increased and prices are coming down further. A 10-day stay at Peerless now costs Rs 1,20,000- Rs 1,30,000 on an average,” said CEO Sudipta Mitra.
Several hospitals felt the charges could be lowered further through a wider use of ‘satellite healthcare’ facilities that most of them have set up to house asymptomatic patients and those with mild symptoms, following the state’s nudge.
Medica Superspecialty Hospital CEO Alok Roy ascribed the lowering of bills to cheaper PPEs and tests. “This has brought the expenses down appreciably. There is not much scope for further reduction. We use three PPEs per day per patient. Mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic patients are being removed to satellite healthcare facilities,” said Roy.
The government’s decision to charge private hospitals under the Clinical Establishment Act for refusing patients has left them worried, though. Most said they were working under constraints and their Covid units were almost packed. “Non-Covid emergency patients are not refused but kept at an isolation bay and tested for Covid. The issue is that once a patient tests positive, he or she has to be shifted to the Covid unit, which has limited beds. A common pool for Covid patients would help,” said the chief of a private hospital.