RGICD slaps hefty bills on TB patients despite their BPL status

RGICD slaps hefty bills on TB patients despite their BPL status

RGICD slaps hefty bills on TB patients despite their BPL status

Poor patients at the state-run Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) are slapped with hefty bills for treatment despite providing credentials to prove their BPL status.

The hospital that once treated 90% of its patients for free has been billing their treatment from the beginning of this year. This also runs contrary to the Programme Management of Drug-Resistant TB which says every patient with that condition should be treated for free.

Experts say the institute must treat tuberculosis patients, especially multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB).

"We presented our BPL card, but we're (still) asked to pay the bill," said the wife of Krishnappa (55) who was admitted on March 4 and was served a Rs 5,000 bill for admission, treatment and medicine. He was yet to be discharged on Wednesday.

Another patient who wished not to be named said he had been in the hospital for the past 20 days and was served Rs 7,000 bill.

"If the patient had a BPL card, we used to direct the clerical staff to include them under one of the health schemes which will ensure free treatment," said the former director of the RGICD, Dr Shashidhar Buggi, adding that 90% of the patients are supposed to be treated for free.

A senior doctor at the institute confirmed that the hospital had been charging the patients beginning January.

The Programme Management of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis notes that free treatment should include examining the patient, ancillary drugs including antibiotics, bed charges and provision for food.

The doctor said wards were now billed anywhere between Rs 2,000  and Rs 7,000 depending on the length of the patient's stay.

"We get at least 30 patients a month with drug-resistant TB, with varying degrees of drug resistance. Many are from poor families, though the institution is supposed to treat them for free no matter what their financial condition is," he said.

Karnataka's Director of Medical Education Dr S Sacchidananda said he was unaware of the situation at the RGICD. "I'll inquire about the incidents," he added.