The user fee being charged from patients by KR Hospital, a teaching hospital attached to Mysore Medical College and Research Institute (MMCRI), has come under criticism though the management on Tuesday maintained that it was not the only public healthcare facility in the State charging the fee.
Many have opposed the fee stating that it will put poor patients to untold inconvenience and deprive them of healthcare if they fail to pay it.
Hospital authorities said the fee had been introduced to raise revenue for maintenance, especially expensive medical devices like the computed tomography (CT) machine which cost the hospital around ₹6 crore.
KR Hospital Medical Superintendent Srinivas told The Hindu that the hospital was not the only one attached to medical colleges collecting user fee. Hospitals attached to other colleges across the State had been collecting the fee since September. “We are the last to start collecting the fee from March 1,” he said.
“Though the State government gives ‘grant-in-aid’ that goes towards the payment of salaries and meeting hospital’s routine maintenance and expenditure, the maintenance of OTs and equipment needed funds. This was raised by a way of collecting nominal fee from patients as part of a policy decision,” he clarified.
All these years, the out-patient treatment was free for BPL families. Only APL families were charged. Hereafter, the user fee for OPD services will be collected from BPL families as well.
A registration fee of ₹10 is collected and tests cost between ₹40 and ₹150 and ₹50 is charged for ECG. The ICU charges had been increased from ₹500 to ₹2,000 and each patient is charged ₹1,000 for a CT scan.
Dr. Srinivas clarified that BPL families were not charged for in-patient services since the expenses were reimbursed from Arogya Karnataka-Ayushman Bharat scheme. User fee is also collected in institutions such as Sri Jayadeva Institute here and whatever fee is charged goes towards serving patients better with improved maintenance of equipments and services, he said.
Poor patients who are unable to pay the fee and impoverished persons were treated free after certification by the superintendent, he added.
Patients demand roll-back
Opposing the user fee, patients and elected representatives staged a protest outside KR Hospital on Tuesday and described the step as against the interests of poor patients who largely visit the largest public healthcare facility in the region for availing medical services. They demanded immediate roll-back of all fees and restoration of free treatment for poor patients. While threatening to intensify protests, the attendants of patients and their relatives also alleged deficiencies in healthcare services.
S.A. Ramdas and L. Nagendra, BJP MLAs, present at the protest, demanded that Ayushman Bharat Health Cards be distributed to the BPL families with immediate effect. Dr. Srinivas received a memorandum from the protesters.