Patients suffer as J-K government fails to control pricing in private hospitals

Patients have frequently complained about private hospitals taking advantage of them due to a lack of regulations

The Lieutenant Governor led government in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to control prices in private hospitals, with owners charging patients according to their own preferences.

In September 2018, a group led by the Director of Health Services Kashmir had filed a report for rate control of private hospitals. However, due to opposition from private hospitals, the government has so far failed to carry out any such exercise.

A senior Health Department official, who didn’t wish to be named, said the prices of private hospitals outside the UT are being checked and regulated consistently. “However, there is no oversight of private hospitals, particularly in the Valley,” the official said.

Patients accuse private hospitals of fleecing

Patients have regularly complained about being fleeced by private hospitals since there are no regulations.

“We had to pay Rs 48,000 at a private hospital in Srinagar city,” Shabbir Bhat, whose wife underwent gall bladder removal operation few months back, said. However, one of his relatives underwent the same surgery, but was only charged Rs 35,000.

It has also been observed that overcrowding in government hospitals forces patients to seek care in private hospitals.

According to Javid Ahmad, a Shopian shopkeeper, there exists a huge variation of pricing. “Hospital owners charge whatever they want for procedures and examinations as they have no accountability at all,” he rued.

He went on to say that the government should set acceptable charges, so that patients are not overcharged for surgeries and consultations.

Due to almost no attention being paid to the private health facilities by the authorities, patients are being charged according to the wishes of hospitals.

J-K’s Health department made half-hearted attempts to regulate private hospital pricing

The Health Department issued an order in 2012, requiring Nursing Homes to publish expenses against the services they offer for the sake of openness. The directive, however, was not implemented on the ground.

According to a Government of India survey carried out in 2016, childbirth at a private hospital in J-K costs more than it does in most other Indian states. As per the data, the average cost of a single delivery at a private hospital in rural Kashmir is Rs 23,750, which is more than the national average.

Even some states in the country have controlled CT-Scan fees, but nothing has been done in the valley for the same.

Presently, the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir has approximately 40 private hospitals and nursing homes on its books.