How rogue COVID-19 care centres fleece the pu

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has got the entire world in its grip for over one and a half years, destroying lives, livelihoods and entire economies of countries. No one has been left untouched by the impact of this pandemic, in one way or another.

Unfortunately, there are some groups who try to profit from the biggest health crisis the world has witnessed in a century.

A widely shared social media post over the past few days, shows the uncaring and unsympathetic nature of the private healthcare system of this country, who try to fleece their customers, at a time when they are the most desperate for care.

The post details the ordeal of a father of a one-year-old child, who tested positive to COVID-19.

“My one-year-old son, who was running a fever, tested positive. My wife and I were deliberating on the next step we should take, and finally came to the conclusion to take him to a COVID-19 care centre. The time was past 7:00 p.m. We found the nearest care centre and decided to take him there. For any parent their child is their biggest treasure.”

When the two desperate parents had contacted the care centre maintained at a well-known hotel in a Colombo suburb, in collaboration with a famous hospital in Colombo, they had informed him that the family had to stay at the care centre for a minimum of 10 days. He had been informed that as the child was less than 4 years, he would not be charged. He had been quoted an all-inclusive figure of Rs 220,000 for the 10 days of care.

The family had then decided to proceed to the care centre. They had reached the hotel by 9:00 p.m. “By that time, we had not had any food from morning. The two of us, and the child were quite hungry, but we were more focused on reaching the care centre as soon as possible. When we were reaching the hotel, we received a call from the hospital.”

“Hello, this is *** from the hospital. This is regarding the care centre payment. Your estimated bill is Rs 270,000.” Within an hour the amount had increased by Rs 50,000!

“But, you initially said Rs 220,000.”

“The person who spoke to you earlier had made an error. Your child is COVID-19 positive. Therefore, although he is under 4 years, we have to charge for him as well.”

At this point, they were in the vicinity of the hotel.

“So, the below 4 years age limit is only for negative children, is it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why would parents who are COVID-19 positive bring their COVID-19 negative children with them? This below 4 years limit is a scam, isn’t it?”

“I’m not aware of this sir, but we have to hold the total amount of Rs 270,000 from your card, before you reach the hotel. Can you send me your card number?”

The father had no choice. So, he sent his card number to the hospital.

The time was now 9:00 p.m. The three of them had reached the hotel. “We received a small room. There was not even a balcony. Although we were charged for a triple room, what we were given was either a double or single room. This is when I realised why they asked for the card number in advance.”

“We stayed in this room for two days. Although they termed it a COVID-19 care centre, not a single doctor came to the room during that time. The next day, my child developed an ear infection. He had been crying non-stop. We informed them of this around 11:30 p.m. A nurse arrived after 10 minutes. She looked irritated, maybe because she was woken up at that hour. We told her, the baby had been crying for 4 hours, refusing to eat anything, whether she could call a doctor. She said she would inform the doctor, and in the meantime, to somehow get the baby to fall asleep.”

“The child cried the whole night. When we called again, we were informed that the doctor had been made aware of the situation. We couldn’t get a wink of sleep that night. We were taking turns carrying the baby, trying to get him to sleep.”

“The doctor finally arrived around 10:00 a.m. He did not seem to be in any hurry. We were still trying to soothe the baby. He wrote a prescription without even checking the baby. What can we do now? We waited for the medicine to arrive. Even till 6:00 p.m. medicine didn’t arrive. When we inquired, we were told the medicine order had been placed at the hospital. We could not wait any longer, the child was not eating or sleeping. Then I got hold of the prescription and sent it to a friend on WhatsApp, and asked him to send it soon. He sent the medicine to the hotel gate by 7:00 p.m., but it took one more hour for it to reach our room.”

“This was the care shown to us at the care centre. If this is how they treated a one-year-old child, then there is no point talking about their care. We could not leave the place either, because of COVID-19.”

“However, the medicine did not help the child. The next night too he was crying non-stop. The next day, we requested to consult a paediatrician. Around noon that day, we were taken to the hospital in a van. We were given a small room there. What we wanted the most was for the child to get better, and return to the hospital.”

“The best part of the story begins now. I received a call from the billing department.”

“Sir, for 3 days, your bill is Rs 265,000. If you don’t make a payment now, we cannot continue treatment.”

“This cannot be. Can you double check.”

“There’s nothing to check sir. The baby’s bill is Rs 151,000 and for madam, Rs 114,000.”

“We didn’t admit madam. We only admitted the baby.”

“No sir, madam had been given medicine.”

“What medicine? The one Vitamin C tablet and two paracetamol per day? Besides, we never told them to admit her. A nurse came in the morning and checked the oxygen levels using that oximeter available at the pharmacy for Rs 3,000. How can you make a bill like this? This is an ugly business!”

“There’s nothing that we can do. Unless you make a payment of at least Rs 100,000 we won’t be able to continue the baby’s treatment.”

“By that time, I had reached the cashier’s room. If I didn’t pay, they would not continue the baby’s treatment. Such were the people at that hospital. I paid Rs 100,000 and asked them to discharge my wife, who was not admitted in the first place. Otherwise, we would have to pay Rs 40,000 per day to receive their Vitamin C tablet!”

“That evening she was discharged and the final bill came. It was Rs 159,000. By that time, they had added more doctor fees and a few other charges. There was a person at the door, when the nurse was checking oxygen levels. If that was the doctor, then who was paid the medical officer fees? This is a great mystery.”

“The same room was charged again for room charges. By that time, the baby was still not better. As he was COVID-19 positive, there was no place to go. I paid the rest of the amount and got my wife discharged. After five days, the baby was discharged too. The baby’s bill came to Rs 234,000. That I did not mind.”

“People are suffering so much due to COVID-19 these days. Some have lost their jobs, some don’t have food to eat. In such a situation, why do they fleece people like this? They will have to suffer the consequences of these actions, in this lifetime itself.”

“If I don’t say this, they would continue their dirty business. That is why I decided to write this.”

“I only have one thing to say: Stand up against injustice!”

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jun 19 2021

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