Centre to states: Engage private sector for critical care at reasonable rates

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Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | Published: June 16, 2020 1:55:30 am

 Engage private sector for critical care at reasonable rates The Centre on Monday directed state governments to engage with the private sector to augment healthcare infrastructure and make available critical care at reasonable rates. (Express file photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

As availability of hospital beds and the high cost of treatment for coronavirus at private hospitals continue to remain a concern, the Centre on Monday directed state governments to engage with the private sector to augment healthcare infrastructure and make available critical care at reasonable rates.

Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan wrote to state Chief Secretaries and asked them to consult with local private sector healthcare providers and arrive at reasonable rates.

The development comes a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold a meeting with the chief ministers on June 16-17.

“In order to ensure that patients receive prompt, good quality and care at reasonable rates, it has been suggested to States to have consultations with the local private healthcare providers and arrive at reasonable rates, while factoring in cost elements for personal safety equipments for healthcare providers,” the letter said.

The communication comes a day after the Union Home Ministry, during the review meeting on the Covid-19 situation in Delhi, said that the committee led by NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul will submit a report on making available 60 per cent of dedicated Covid-19 beds in private hospitals at lower rates, and also on fixing the cost of testing and treatment.

The Centre stated in its letter: “States have also been asked to proactively engage with private sector health providers and consider pooling in public and private healthcare facilities, as this will help in providing prompt, good quality and reasonable health care to COVID-19 patients.”

The communication, as the letter points out, comes in the backdrop of reports of shortage of ICU beds and overcharging by healthcare providers for Covid-19 treatment. Similarly, at the review meeting chaired by Modi last Saturday, a detailed discussion was held on the challenges, especially in urban hotspots and the requirement of beds to meet the daily surge of cases.

The letter stated, “There have been several reports indicating an emerging shortage of healthcare infrastructure, including hospitals with ICU beds, ventilators, oxygen-supported beds etc, for management of COVID-19 patients.

There have also been reports of overcharging by healthcare providers for COVID-19 treatment.

“Being seized of the emerging scenario, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has addressed the States/UTs to engage with private healthcare providers to facilitate enhanced bed availability and critical care health facilities as well as to ensure fair and transparent charges for services provided.”

The Centre also referred to the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) and CGHS packages rates that are fixed area-wise. The Centre has referred to the initiatives already taken by some state governments on this matter.

Earlier this month, the Tamil Nadu government had issued orders to cap the charges for Covid-19 treatment in private hospitals. The state government categorised hospital based on amenities, and the first two levels — Grade A1 and A2 — of hospitals were directed to charge daily fee of Rs 7,500 and Rs 15,000 for general ward and ICU, respectively. For Grade A3 and A4 hospitals, the ceiling for charges per day in general ward and ICU were fixed at Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000, respectively.

Similarly, Maharashtra has also put a cap on charges private hospitals can levy on patients; hospitals in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Panvel and Pune, which have an agreement on treatment packages with General Insurance Public Sector Association (GIPSA), cannot charge more than the lowest bed category rates for patients. GIPSA is an association of government insurance companies that fixes package rates for surgeries in hospitals.

“It has been suggested that the rates, once fixed, must be widely publicised so that both the patients and service providers are fully aware and capacities are used optimally,” the Centre wrote on Monday.

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