Hospitals overcharged COVID patients, weak system affected response: Panel

The committee observed that better co-ordination between government and private hospitals and a sustainable pricing model to treat COVID patients could have averted many deaths

Hospital
The report said “the fragility of Indian health ecosystem posed a big hurdle in generating an effective response against the pandemic”. | Representational pic

A parliamentary committee report has confirmed what many COVID patients had experienced during treatment: overcharging by private hospitals.

Ram Gopal Yadav, the head of the committee on health, submitted a report on ‘Outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19 and its Management’, to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday. The report stated that inadequate facilities at government hospitals and absence of specific guidelines for COVID treatment emboldened the private hospitals to charge exorbitant fees. A sustainable pricing model could have averted many deaths, stated the report — a first on the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The report said “the fragility of the Indian health ecosystem posed a big hurdle in generating an effective response against the pandemic”.

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“The committee, therefore, strongly recommends the government to increase its investments in the public healthcare system and make consistent efforts to achieve the National Health Policy targets of expenditure up to 2.5 per cent of GDP within two years as the set time frame of year 2025 is far away and the public health cannot be jeopardised till that time schedule,” the report stated.

The panel observed that the number of government hospital beds in the country were not adequate to handle the increasing load of patients (COVID as well as non-COVID).

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The committee observed that better co-ordination between government and private hospitals and a sustainable pricing model to treat COVID patients could have averted many deaths.

The government should support the private health care sector so that better healthcare reaches the needy, the report said.

The committee praised healthcare workers and doctors for their fight against coronavirus and suggested defined working hours and scheduled off-duty days for them. Doctors who died while performing their duty during the pandemic must be acknowledged as martyrs and their families be adequately compensated, the report suggested.

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