Just days after the Telangana government allowed private hospitals to go ahead with treatment of COVID-19 patients, most of them seem to have already reached the maximum capacity that they can afford, with the cap on prices.
According to sources, beds in most private hospitals in Hyderabad that are allowed to take in COVID-19 patients, are already full.
"Each day I'm getting calls from several worried constituents that they are standing outside a private hospital but are not getting a bed. They're begging me on the phone, asking if I can do something. People are suffering a lot," an MLA from the city told TNM.
The legislator said that since the onset of monsoon, the city has seen a spike in the cases of fever and cold, which could be regular infections, but are also symptoms of the coronavirus. "Other private hospitals are not willing to accept these patients as they fear that it may be a COVID-19 case. The families of the patients are scared to approach government-run hospitals as they feel that treatment is inadequate. As a result, everyone is rushing to the private hospitals with COVID-19 approval, which is overwhelming them," he adds.
He also said that he was receiving complaints about private hospitals delaying treatment after taking the money and urged the state government to look into the issue.
Another MLA from Hyderabad also told TNM that he was similarly receiving many calls about the shortage of beds in hospitals that have permission to treat COVID-19. He added that often, families also misdiagnose a patient's condition and believe it to be asthma or heart disease and are reluctant to go to a COVID-19 hospital as they fear that they may catch the infection from there.
"As a result, we are seeing a number of families moving patients from one private hospital to another, trying to get a bed. When they finally decide to approach the hospitals that can treat COVID-19, there are insufficient beds or the patient dies," he said.
"Another complaint that I have been receiving is that hospitals are evading the cap on COVID-19 treatment. They tell patients that until they test positive for the coronavirus, they are treated as regular patients and will be billed exorbitantly until then. There have to be some more clear rules to deal with this," he added.
Private hospitals on the other hand say that they are having their own problems as it isn't economically viable for them to treat COVID-19 patients.
As per guidelines issued by the state government earlier this week, the price for a COVID-19 test is capped at Rs 2200. Patients can be charged Rs 4,000 per day if they are admitted to an isolation ward and Rs 7,500 per day if they are admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) but do not require a ventilator. Those patients who are on ventilator support can be charged a maximum of Rs 9,000 per day.
"We have to continue offering our other regular services besides COVID-19 treatment. We have allocated around 20% of our beds and staff to handle coronavirus cases, while the remaining are for general patients. As a result these beds are always full," a source at a prominent private hospital located in the city's IT sector told TNM.
On Thursday, representatives of the Telangana Super Speciality Hospitals Association (TESHA) met with state Health Minister Eatala Rajender on the issue. They wished to discuss the price cap set by the state government but the Health Minister was not willing to negotiate.
Against the backdrop of allegations that some private hospitals were charging exorbitant amounts to treat COVID-19 patients, the minister asked them to provide treatment to patients as per government rates.
Observing that there was no compromise with regard to public health, he said in a statement on Thursday evening that government hospitals were ready to offer treatment even if the number of patients increased sharply. Some other issues were also discussed.
Meanwhile, 352 cases and three deaths due to COVID-19 were reported from Telangana on Thursday, taking the total tally to 6,027. Out of this, 2,531 people are currently availing treatment.