The Bombay high court on Thursday denounced the "inhuman" practice of hospitals detaining patients till their medical bills were paid. A division bench of Justices VM Kanade and P D Kode heard a petition filed by Sanjay Prajapati (25) urging it to direct MIDC Police, Andheri (East), to act against doctors and staff of SevenHills Hospital, for wrongfully confining his brother over a disputed bill. He urged the court to direct the police to get the patient discharged and admitted to a suitable hospital for further treatment.
The petitioner said his brother Chinku suffered head injuries after a fall at home on March 29, 2014, and was admitted to SevenHills Hospital where he was operated upon. Prajapati later wrote to the CEO alleging improper treatment and bogus billings, but got no response. Finding no improvement in his brother's condition, he decided to shift him elsewhere but the hospital refused to discharge him till the disputed bills were cleared.
Diwakar Dwivedi, Prajapati's advocate, told the HC that out of a total bill of Rs 4.56 lakh, Rs 2.76 lakh was deposited and according to the hospital a balance of Rs 1.80 lakh was payable. "I have disputed it. I now want to shift my brother but they are refusing to discharge him unless the bills are paid. They cannot detain a patient in this manner," the petitioner said. The judges agreed. "It is a practice at all hospitals to detain patients as long as money is not paid. It is inhuman. It is happening even in government hospitals. It is surprising" said Justice Kanade. The judge recounted how a court staff was detained in a government hospital even after he stood guarantee for payment of the bill. He said the man had high blood pressure but was told he would be operated upon only after a deposit of Rs 2 lakh. Justice Kanade said he gave an undertaking for making the payment. "Government reimbursements are usually delayed. He was detained for 10 days," said Justice Kanade.
Prosecutor FR Shaikh remarked that hospitals have been "commercialized". The judges said people are expected to shell out a huge amount at a short notice and it is unfortunate that patients are refused discharge for payment. Prajapati's petition alleged that the surgeon at SevenHills, Dr Kishore Choudhary, was charging his visiting fees for the period when he was on leave. He claimed when he took up the issue of bogus visiting charges, he was allegedly threatened that the bills would be inflated further. He alleged that the hospital and its staff behaved badly with him and his brother as they were poor. "The patient has been ill-treated, humiliated and neglected by doctors as well as the staff," his petition stated. The judges have asked the state to take instructions and inform the court on Friday.
However, hospital authorities denied that the patient was being detained and told TOI that he was being extended the best care. "There is no question of holding back a patient. He is fit to be discharged and can walk out of the hospital whenever the family wishes to take him," said Anand Garg, CEO of SevenHills Hospital. He said doctors at the hospital have given Prajapati a new lease of life after he came with a broken skull. Garg however admitted that initially there was some erroneous billing. "There was some discrepancy in the initial bill that was sorted out soon after the family pointed it out to us. Our billing is automated so it was more of a technical error," he said. He insisted that the patient was not denied any second surgery. "The patient does not need that immediately," he added. Garg also said that the family was provided every medical record and diagnostic report that they had asked for.
Times Of India
13 June 2014
by: Rosy Sequeira