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Dhaka Tribune

Private hospitals charging patients arbitrarily for Covid-19 treatment

Fees for Covid-19 related services at private hospitals not set by government

Update : 13 Jul 2020, 01:51 PM

Harunur Rashid Chowdhury, 53, was admitted to Bangladesh Specialized Hospital on May 25 with Covid-19 symptoms. He later tested positive for the disease and paid Tk1,68,429 after receiving treatment for five days. 

The hospital charged him Tk21,600 for providing oxygen for 135 hours, with the hourly charge being Tk160.

Harun’s father, Mosharaf Hossain Chowdhury, 82, came to the capital from Feni and was taken to Green Life Hospital on June 25 with symptoms of the same disease. 

He also tested Covid-19 positive after his admission to the hospital. The hospital charged him Tk64,000 for five days of treatment.

Afterwards, Mosharaf was transferred to Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital for ICU support on June 29. The hospital charged Tk3,51,049 for five days in the ICU after he had finally succumbed to Covid-19.

The hospital charged Tk33,000 for 55 hours of oxygen supplementation, the hourly rate being Tk600 in this case.

Other testing and service charges are also different in the two bills provided by the two private hospitals.

This is not an unusual scenario as the countries’ private hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic centres are not maintaining any uniform service charge.

Fees for Covid-19 related services at private hospitals not set by government

The government amended the concerned law and set a service charge list (schedule) long ago but it was not updated any time recently and it is not being followed by the private healthcare institutes.

Prof Dr Moniruzzaman Bhuiyan, president of the Bangladesh Private Clinic Diagnostic Owners Association, said the testing bill does not vary much from hospital to hospital as they have a fixed rate for pathology tests.

Later, however, he said few of the private hospitals are charging excessive fees, and the association does not support those hospitals.

Owing to the lack of practical laws and rules in this regard, the private healthcare institutions are charging patients arbitrarily.

No private hospital has set any notable example when it comes to Covid-19 treatment. Moreover, the charges for the same services vary from hospital to hospital.

The government amended the Medical Practice and Private Clinics and Laboratories (Regulation) Ordinance in 1982. The ordinance has a schedule which fixed the rate for different tests and services.

Section 3 of this law says: “The maximum charges and fees that may be demanded in a private clinic or private laboratory for surgical operations, conduction of labour, electrocardiogram, pathological or radiological examinations and other medical examinations or services, as the case may be, shall be such as are specified in Schedule.”

Dr Younus Ali, deputy director of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said the country does not have a uniform price list for private hospitals, clinics, and diagnosis centres. 

“The owners' association is basically fixing their rate of services. 

“We took the initiative to set a fixed rate several times but it did not work out in the end. It is a very complicated matter,” said Dr Younus.

The DGHS is currently having talks with the private hospitals with an aim to fix the rates of some tests related to coronavirus and the hourly oxygen support, he added.

Rates for oxygen supply

Asking duty officers or emergency hotlines, this correspondent found different rates for oxygen support in several other hospitals of the capital.

Be it the ICU or any other department, the hourly rate for oxygen supply at Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital is Tk500 but the late Mosharaf was charged Tk600.

Square Hospital charges TK275 and Tk400 per hour for oxygen supply at the ICU and outside the ICU respectively. The United Hospital charges Tk200 every hour for oxygen supply outside the ICU, while the rate varies based on patients’ requirement in the ICU.

Prof Dr Moniruzzaman Bhuiyan is of the opinion that the average hourly fee for oxygen supply can be Tk200 but no more than that.

The association usually fixes the rate for the services provided by the private healthcare organizations though most organizations do not follow that rate.

Dr Younus Ali said the DGHS finalized a draft of the rules of the existing law (the Medical Practice and Private Clinics and Laboratories (Regulation) Ordinance), and has submitted it to the Health Ministry at the beginning of this year. 

He, however, does not have any updates regarding this matter.

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