Ruby Hall holds patient for 24 days over nonpayment

Nirmala Jawale sought free treatment under Indigent Patient Fund (IPF). The hospital on its part claimed that her family was well off and not eligible for the charity scheme. She was discharged only after charity commissioner intervened

The charity commissionerate of Pune region is dealing with a peculiar case, of a patient held back for 24 days by Ruby Hall Clinic, for not paying the hospital bill. The patient’s relatives said that though she was given discharge on July 25, the actual discharge happened on August 19, and charity officials are inquiring whether she is the real beneficiary.

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The patient, Nirmala Yeshudas Jawale, resident of Gundegaon village, tehsil and district of Ahmednagar was suffering from brain hemorrhage. She underwent a successful surgery, and the total bill came to Rs 6.90 lakh. At the time of admission, her husband Yeshudas had deposited Rs 2.70 lakh, and on July 25, the hospital asked them to deposit the remaining Rs 4.20 lakh, before discharge.

Meanwhile, during his wife’s treatment, Yeshudas came to know that patients whose annual income was below Rs 50,000, were treated at Ruby free of cost. “I own a small piece of land in my village and as my annual income was also less than Rs 50,000, I was eligible to avail of the Indigent Patient Fund (IPF) scheme. I asked the hospital’s medical social department to treat my wife free of cost, but they refused to and demanded the full amount from me,” said Yeshudas. “I took a loan and deposited Rs 2.70 lakh for the treatment, but now I am not in a position to pay the remaining hospital bill. I have spent more than Rs 10 lakh on my son when he met with an accident last year, so I don’t have any money,” Yeshudas said.

He then wrote to the charity commissioner of Pune on July 27, submitting the income certificate certified by the tehsildar. In the letter, Yeshudas described himself as poor, and also attached proof of income certificate.

After seeing the letter, Navnath Jagtap, Additional Charity Commissioner (Hospitals), ordered an inquiry into the matter and sought explanation from the hospital as to why they were not discharging the patient. After that the medical social workers of Ruby Clinic went to the village of the patient, Gundegaon in Ahmednagar district, to inquire whether the patient Jawale was poor or not. The medical social workers alleged that they clicked pictures of the patient’s home and school. “We inquired with the Sarpanch of the village and went to the patient’s home. Their house is well constructed, and Yeshudas (husband of the patient) is on a committee of a local school. The school has buses and we clicked all these photos and submitted them before the charity commissioner as proof, saying that the patient was not below the poverty line. But the charity commissionerate did not accept these proofs, saying that the picture does not establish the evidence that the patient is not poor,” said Poonam Chauhan, medical social worker of Ruby Hall Clinic.

It has been almost 20 days since the process has started and the patient has been in the hospital undergoing treatment. On August 16, Yeshudas again approached the charity commissioner and requested to order the release of the patient. Then a meeting was called, and after inspecting both sides (hospital and patient) documents, Joint Charity commissioner Shivaji Kachare ordered the discharge of the patient. On August 19, the hospital discharged the patient Nirmala Jawale without charging them. “The patient has income proof which is less than Rs 50,000. As per the Bombay Public Trust Act (BPT Act), the patient is eligible to avail free treatment, so we ordered to discharge the patient. The hospital submitted us photos of patient’s house and other things but it cannot grant as it is the proof of patient is rich,” said Navnath Jagtap, Additional Charity Commissioner. Asked if there was doubt to the hospital regarding the income certificate of the patient, Jagtap replied that the hospital should appeal and challenge the sub divisional officer against the suspected income certificate. If the certificate was found to be disproportionate to the actual income, hospital can lodge criminal complaint against the patient. Hospital can take action on such patients on grounds of submitting false information to the revenue department and obtaining the income certificate disproportionate to actual income source.

Yeshuraj Jawale said that comissionerate officials called him for further inquiry on August 26. Abhijit Anap, superintendent (medical) of charity commissioner office, said that the patient was discharged from the hospital and the inquiry is going on and its decision will be final.

dnyaneshwar.bhonde@goldensparrow.com

Originally published on The Golden Sparrow