Navi Mumbai Civic Body Issues Directives to Hospitals Against Overcharging Patients

Navi Mumbai Civic Body Issues Directives to Hospitals Against Overcharging Patients

The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) is taking steps to ensure private and charitable hospitals are not overcharging patients, while also directing hospitals within its jurisdiction to not charge for PPEs, masks and other protective equipment that could potentially be used with multiple patients. 

The directives were provided by the Municipal Commissioner of NMMC, Abhijeet Bangar, who also asked hospitals to set up a real-time dashboard of the availability of beds at hospitals. Hospital authorities were further instructed not to withhold dead bodies over non-payment of dues. 

With more than 19,000 cases coming out of NMMC’s periphery so far, several patients are getting treated at private and charitable hospitals. Patients have complained about continued harassment by the hospitals regarding payment of pending dues while instances of patients being overcharged also came to the surface. 

With the NMMC now stepping in, 80 per cent of the beds available at all COVID-19 hospitals will be regulated and handled by the civic body. In addition to the setting up of a dedicated dashboard at every hospital entrance, the NMMC will now update hospital bed availability in its own dashboard.

“In the case of bed unavailability, the hospital shall stabilise the patient in their triage section until the bed is made available in another facility and shift the patient to that facility in an ambulance having an oxygen facility,” the directives stated.  

The order by the municipal commissioner also states that admission to walk-in patients cannot be denied, particularly to patients who have oxygen saturation levels of under 95 per cent. Further, upon discharge, every patient should be provided with an ambulance to travel back to their respective homes. Eligible patients under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana will be able to avail the benefits of this scheme. 

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Additionally, hospitals are directed not to allow Leave Against Medical Advice (LAMA) or Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) for COVID-19 patients. If such patients need to be transferred to another hospital or institution, the hospital needs to ensure the patient is shifted along with a detailed discharge or referral note. Shifting of such patients shall also be accommodated by the hospitals using an oxygen-tank equipped ambulance.

The directives warn the hospitals that any institution found to be violating these norms will be in breach of Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which is a punishable offence. 

Yesterday, it was reported that the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation or KDMC has refunded up to 51% of the excess fees charged by hospitals to the affected patients. The pattern of hospitals overcharging patients is not particularly new, unfortunately, and matters have only gotten worse as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the metropolitan region. 

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