We are shocked to learn that some private hospitals are charging patients higher than usual for oxygen support during a national health crisis. According to our report, as the number of patients needing oxygen has gone up with the rising number of Covid-19 cases, some private hospitals have taken this as an opportunity to make extra profit by charging the patients unreasonably high amounts for the oxygen support. While before the pandemic, the charges for per hour of oxygen ranged between Tk 100 and Tk 200, many private hospitals are now charging Tk 200 to Tk 400 for the same service. Reportedly, a private hospital in Chattogram has charged a patient Tk 3.05 lakh for giving her oxygen support for 10 days.
As we understand, this has been happening due to a lack of proper government policy and mechanisms to oversee the charges of essential medical services in private hospitals. In the absence of a regulatory mechanism, some hospitals have become very ruthless towards the patients when it comes to charging them for Covid-19 treatment. The hospitals, however, are blaming the increased cost of oxygen and other equipment for the higher bills.
We believe the government has a lot to do here. As a first step, to lessen the economic burden on patients, the government should immediately fix the charges of oxygen and other essential medical support and form a body to oversee that the hospitals comply with the government directives. If the hospitals' claim about the increase in oxygen and other necessary medical equipment's prices in the market is found to be true, the government should take action against those responsible for the price hikes through continuous monitoring of the market. Besides, it should consider giving subsidies to the private hospitals to ensure that the oxygen prices and treatment costs remain stable.
The DGHS director's (hospitals and clinics) comment in this regard is very unfortunate, as he claimed that he had not heard about any allegations of high oxygen bills. We expect that the government agencies concerned will stop being in denial mode when patients are finding it hard to bear the treatment cost of Covid-19 in private hospitals and do the needful to provide them some relief.