Ashok Khemka’s suggestion of imposing financial penalties on private hospitals was vociferously opposed by Mohendas Pai and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.

15 lakh bill for dengue death High profile Twitter war over medical malpractice
news Healthcare Saturday, November 25, 2017 - 18:16

Eight-year-old Adya Singh was admitted to a Gurgaon Hospital on August 31 with a high fever. 15 days later, she succumbed to dengue and Adya’s father was presented with a bill of Rs 15 lakh.

The issue came to light after a friend of the girl's father had tweeted about the incident. The media coverage of the incident triggered public outrage against the hospital and sparked a debate about stricter regulations in private medical healthcare. 

In the following days, media reports quoted the girl’s father alleging the entire hospital episode to be “hellish to begin with”.

He said that the doctors prescribed expensive branded medicines after initially suggesting cheaper generic medicines. He also said that doctors were not attending Adya during weekends. However, in a media statement, the hospital denied any wrongdoing.

Following the uproar, Union Health Minister JP Nadda promised to take action and sought a report from the hospital. The Haryana government subsequently launched an investigation against the Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI).

On Friday, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority also sent a notice to the FMRI seeking copies of the bills.

Well-known bureaucrat and Principal Secretary for Youth and Sports Affair in the BJP-led Haryana government Ashok Khemka tweeted on November 23 suggesting that heavy financial penalties may deter alleged “exploitation” by some private medical establishments.

“Use of sophisticated language cannot justify the exploitation of public misery by some private hospitals in the name of medical treatment. Big financial penalties imposed on hospital promoters and doctors may help curb the malpractices,” the IAS officer tweeted.

Khemka’s tweet which was welcomed by many with more than 2400 retweets and 4,400 likes, also snowballed into a twitter war, with some alleging that the IAS officer was ‘biased’ against private establishments.

Those opposed to his views include eminent personalities like Padma Shri and former Infosys CFO TV Mohandas Pai and Chairman and MD of Biocon, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw owns stake in cancer treatment facility, Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre run by Narayana Hrudayalaya. Eminent cardiologist  Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty is the chairman of  Narayana Hrudayalaya. Mohandas Pai meanwhile is a board member of Manipal Hospitals.

Pai argued that although the amount may look big, the cost of ICU treatment for that many days is not necessarily excessive. He also questioned why Khemka was passing comments without being a specialist or having sufficient data.

In a series of tweets, Pai accused Khemka to be “biased and “feudal”.

Replying to Khemka’s tweet, Shaw suggested that the bureaucrat begin by using government hospitals before talking about malpractices in private medical care.

Khemka, however, was quick to shoot back.  

The heated conversation went on with defenders of private investment speaking in favour of private medical care establishments. They also justified the high costs as it is not subsidised. 
Shaw argued that individual healthcare is always costly and can only be rationalised through universal health insurance.She also acknowledged wrongdoing by some private institutions but argued that Khemka should not generalise.

Meanwhile, Khemka in subsequent tweets argued that the bill prima facie looks inflated and an inquiry will reveal the truth. He also called for Fortis to explain the bill in public domain.

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