Task force entrusted to scrutinise the private hospitals finds large-scale irregularities.

 

Bengaluru: In developments that have cracked the whip on private hospitals that were making fast money while treating Covid-19 patients in Bengaluru, the task force entrusted to scrutinise private hospitals and regulate them on corona virus treatment has unearthed large-scale irregularities.

It can be remembered here that the Karnataka government faced stiff resistance from private hospitals on allocating 50% of beds for government referred patients and also about ceiling on treatment charges. After several rounds of talks, the Chief Minister and his Covid related ministers had convinced these hospitals to come around.

However, in the coming days shocking stories about over-charging and refusal of beds put the government in the dock prompting Chief Secretary Vijay Bhaskar to form committees involving IAS and IPS officers to regulate the rogue hospitals.

IGP D. Roopa, who won accolades across the country for exposing VVIP treatment in Bengaluru jail to disgraced AIADMK leader V.K. Sasikala, has now picked up the cudgels against the erring hospitals. In less than 48 hours of taking charge as member of the committee along with Harsha Gupta, IAS, she along with her team unearthed huge irregularities and got the hospital to refund over Rs 5 lakh each to over 21 patients through RTGS.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Roopa said: “The state government had issued orders on two aspects—50% of beds for free treatment under government referrals and fixed rates on treatment for patients who get admitted themselves. We found out that while the website said there were 100 beds available, BBMP would send patients to hospital and later on they were refused admission on arrival. Some hospitals were manipulating the system by hiding the actual number of beds available and not giving the clear picture. There was lag in real-time uploading of figures, sometimes deliberately and sometimes due to lethargy,’’ she said.

 

Another important factor that put thousands of patients in ordeal was regarding extra billing. “Even for patients referred by BBMP, the hospital has asked if they had insurance and upon confirmation, they have been overcharged.

In some cases, people who had gone to hospitals with symptoms like cough, fever or body ache have been admitted as private as patients by taking exorbitant money as advance, violating the prescribed rates declared by the government. The private hospitals have devised dubious methods of raking in their cash registers. Though our brief was to ensure 50% beds for BBMP referrals since guidelines have been issued, we investigated the financial irregularities,’’ Roopa said.

KPCC president D.K. Shivkumar, who also raised this issue with the government, said: “This is just the tip of the ice berg. Almost all private hospitals are looting the people of Karnataka in the name of Covid treatment. There should be a detailed probe into the financial aspects of medical treatment given in the last three months. Family members are paying laksh of rupees, they don’t even know the cause of the death, they are not even allowed near the bodies. There is no autopsy conducted and no questions asked; have never witnessed this kind of inhuman events in my life. We will ask for this also in our demands for judicial probe by sitting judge,’’ he told The Sunday Guardian.

However, Deputy CM Ashwathnarayan, who is also overlooking Covid-related issues, said that the very fact that “we have formed teams of effective and honest civil servants shows our transparency. Action is being taken against the guilty. Due diligence and due process needs to followed while handling sensitive matters like hospitals, specially during these difficult times of corona. We want private hospitals to partner with us in the pandemic. We understand their financial constraints, but this is not the time to take advantage of the situation’’.